DDP stands for Deaf Development Project, a project aimed at gathering the deaf people who live abandoned in the rural areas and giving them an education. DDP has three working centres, one in Kampong Cham, another one in Phnom Penh and another one in the South, in Kampot; the three of them are interrelated and collaborate to get better results. This project started in 1995 and keeps on going today; it was founded by an American priest, Father Charlie, who is still in charge of the project.
In these centres their job consists on going to the villages looking for deaf people, where they meet them and, later on, study their situation; sometimes they find them by interviewing the chiefs of the villages. Once the deaf person has been identified, they can carry out two lines of action: to help them to get in the work market by means of professional trainings, or to take them to the centre and to provide them with an education, teaching them Sign Language and offering them to follow a basic formative program.
The deaf group I worked with in these workshops didn’t have a language when they were contacted by DDP, they talked using mimics, and, in only two years, they had learnt Sign Language, pretty impressive…
Another goal of DDP is the research on the Cambodian Sign Language and the recovery and collection of those signs which are autochthonous, in order to produce didactical material to teach their students afterwards.
TW Exhibition travelled in this occasion to the public school where DDP has specialized in the education of deaf people. This school is in front of their offices at Kampong Cham. In the school hearing and deaf people live together and the buildings share the playground. We placed the exhibition in the outside, next to the deaf students building.
When setting up the exhibit, Selwyn gave me a hand. He is an Australian guy who has been living and working in Cambodia for a couple of years as an activity coordinator in DDP. When they saw us working, some students also came to help and, this way, work was much quicker.
Later, we spread a continuous paper roll on the wall and we gave markers to the children who wanted to participate in the collective creation of a mural, in which everyone could draw or write their ideas about water. Not only deaf students took part in this activity, some hearing ones joined us too; it was a really crowded activity and many ideas about water came up.
At that moment, Selwyn told us that, if it was ok for us, we would have two groups instead of one, as one of the teachers was sick and we could use his classroom in the morning to develop our activities.
Next day we started the activities. We had two groups of 15 sudents each, one in the
morning and one in the afternoon. The ages were varied, from 15 to 28 years old and they all were attending the alphabetization program, so all of them could sign Cambodian Sign Language. DDP students don’t have ASL as a basis, so this time we were especially grateful to our assistant-interpreter, Selwyn.
First, we did was a guided tour that, as many other times, we approached in an interactive way, trying the students to participate. By means of questions, we made them reflect on the photos, where was this photograph taken? What is going on? What do you think the author wanted to tell us?
Afterwards, based on the pictures about the Kingdom, we shared some ideas about the situation of the water in Cambodia and, using an Earth balloon that they had in the school, we could discuss about the water situation of other countries in the world.
Later, we started the workshops. Only some of the students had smartphones, so, for many of them, it was their first time interacting with a camera. We began doing a walk through the history of photography, using images, then some basic composition rules and, finally, usage of the camera. This took us a long time because most of them had never used a camera before and all beginnings are hard. When everybody got in touch with the photocameras, we started to put our learnings in practise through a simple activity: researching when and where one is in contact with the water in one’s daily life, since the moment one wakes up until one goes to bed.
In pairs, the students went across the school capturing those moments. Some of them proved that they had completely understood the theory, while others needed a bit of support to get proper focus and balanced compositions. It didn’t take long to see how everybody was more and more comfortable and satisfied with their shootings.
The following day we proposed an activity that implied a higher grade of creativity and imagination: we wanted to look for alternative ways of taking photographs from the water, from different angles, using diverse objects, reflects… When we started, some students were a little stuck, but Selwyn helped us a lot, making them understand what we were looking for until they got into the activity.
Next day we did animations using water in three images. We formed groups composed of three or four people, so, as one was taking the photo, the other members of the group could make the action happen: buckets of water thrown at people, bottles of water poured onto people’s heads… This activity was real fun and everyone loved it.
The last day we closed the workshop screening all the artworks, sharing impressions and learnings. Most of them were happy with the results and had assumed the learning of the work we had been doing. Unanimously, they picked up the animation as their favourite activity, because it was the funniest one. In general, we were all very satisfied with our work; the workshops were a success and we wish we could keep on deepening in the world of photography.