Give Children with Disabilities an Arts Education

by Epic Arts Vetted since 2015 Site Visit Verified
SEP having fun drawing in class
SEP having fun drawing in class

This month our Special Education Project was awarded national recognition from the Ministry of Education, for the work we’re doing with children and young adults with  learning disabilities.

“It’s amazing that the government have recognized our work at a national level because the work we do is not just inclusive education, it’s inclusive education through the creative arts.

Inclusive Education through creative arts  is a unique concept in Cambodia and Epic Arts are pioneering the way forward.

I believe that the arts are the key to making inclusive education move forward and help even more children with learning disabilities access education .

The arts are a great way for children with disabilities to forget about the discrimination they face, to express themselves and to bring them happiness.” - Co-Director, Onn Sokny

We currently run three classes for children from age 3 to 27 with learning disabilities. Each and every child in our classes has a individual learning plan and personal targets to help them progress and develop. We have 33 students and our classes are small so that teachers can give attention to every student.

In Kampot, we’re the only organisation offering education for children with learning disabilities. Children with down’s syndrome or autism aren’t accepted into the public school system and there is limited knowledge about inclusive education.

Our Special Education Project couldn’t run without your donations. Why not set up a monthly donation this year to help us continue our work.

As little as £10 a month can help pay for the tuk-tuk to bring children to our centre, buy fresh fruit and snacks for the children or buy the materials and resources which the teachers need for their classes.

SEP student proud of his colourful drawing
SEP student proud of his colourful drawing
Mother and son at Epic Arts
Mother and son at Epic Arts

Thank you for donating to Epic Arts Inclusive Education Programme (IEP) because of your donation we’re able to transform lives by providing education to young people with disabilities, who without our programme wouldn’t have the chance to have access to education. 

Currently we have students aged from 7 to 27 involved in our Inclusive Education Programme.

  • Children with learning disabilities aged 6 – 12 study in Peace Class
  • Young adults with learning disabilities aged 14 – 27 join Independent Class 
  • Young adults with and without disabilities aged between 18 and 27 study arts and independent life skills on the Inclusive Arts Course

We felt we were missing an important demographic, so we have an exciting update for the IEP. 

In May we’re opening our classrooms to pre-school children with disabilities from 3 – 6 years old. 

Ten children with disabilities and their parents will join an informal weekly class where they’ll build important social skills and learn through play. The children will make new friends and their parents will find a supportive network with each other and with our teachers.

Following a three year project with Aide et Action, to integrate children into the public school system, we’ve seen the need for children with disabilities and their parents to be supported into that process. 

We believe that our new class will help change families perceptions around disability and what their child can and cannot do. 

“I’ve met a lot of parents who don’t believe that their children can learn just because they have a disability” - Chanthat, Social Worker

When the time comes, Social Worker, Chanthat will work closely with families to create an individual exit strategy for each child. The student will be assessed and supported in their next step whether that’s moving to another class at Epic Arts, or Epic Arts lobbying for the child to be enrolled at their local school.

We’re creating this new class because learning benefits every human being and we believe that every child deserves an education regardless of ability, gender or race. 

If you believe that education should be available to all children consider setting up a monthly donation to help us work towards the Global Goals  #4 – Qualtiy Education & #10 Reduce Inequalities.

Mother & son at a parent meeting
Mother & son at a parent meeting
Peace Class student in Art Class
Peace Class student in Art Class
Epic student happy to start public school
Epic student happy to start public school
Students working in Visual Arts Class
Students working in Visual Arts Class

We’d like to wish you a happy new year from all the staff and students at Epic Arts! 

Both our Special Education classes and Inclusive Education Course  are back after some much needed rest. 

Inclusive Arts Course

Our Inclusive Arts Course began in late October thanks to you and your generous donations. We welcomed 13 students on to the course. They finished their first term in December and all thirteen students returned back in early January.  

“I really enjoy coming to Epic Arts course it is so good to work creatively together with others  and to be accepted as me” – IAC student

“I joined Epic Arts because I saw all their videos on Facebook. I want to be the star of the next one!” – IAC student

“I’ve been blown away by how much they’ve grown and developed in my class!” – IAC Dance Teacher

_________

Special Education Project 

The Special Education team are back with Peace Class (6-11) and Independent Class (13 – 27)  We have exciting news in the pipeline for our Special Education Project in 2018 we will be looking for children with disabilities under the age of 6 to join our  project. This is the first time we’ve formally had a class for younger children but we have had a few success stories from children we’ve taught. 

“I’ve seen from my own son, Nak - who has Down’s Syndrome and has been at Epic Arts since he was three years old, that when we teach children from a younger age it really develops there ability to learn”  - Kagna, SEP Team Leader & Senior Teacher

"I'm happy because we get to reach more families to show them that their children can learn. I’m excited because I believe that this will lead to more children with disability being accepted into primary schools, which will give them more opportunities in life!”" - Chanthat, Social Worker

 

We can’t support these young adults and children  without your generous donations, Thank you from 

 

 

Students during Dance Class
Students during Dance Class
Students during Dance Class
Students during Dance Class
Pektra ready for the trip to his new school
Pektra ready for the trip to his new school

This month we're celebrating some wonderful news at Epic Arts, former student Pektra has been selected for a scholorship to Lavalla School. Lavalla School is the only school providing formal education to children with physical disabilities thatis approved by the government.

We couldn't have helped or supported Pektra's without your generous donation, so we thought we'd share his epic story with you.

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"My Son Pektra joined Epic Arts Special Education Programme (SEP) in 2008 at age three. I didn't notice anything different about Pektra until I had my second child, Yanni. She was a very independent baby and a lot more physically able than Pektra despite the age gap. I knew something was different because he was three years old but he hadn't begun to walk but Yanni was running around already at only 9 months old. I was very worried for my son and I asked a lot of people about what I could do, I heard about Epic Arts from a friend and decided to meet with them." - Sina, Pektra's mum

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There is  little understanding of disability in Cambodia  and diagnostic resources are extremely limited and expensive. Pektra's family assumed he had a learning disability. Pektra joined Epic Arts' Peace Class, a class for young children with learning disabilities to learn literacy, numeracy & life skills.

Staff and teachers soon realised that Pektra learnt at a quicker pace than the other children and he was eventually diagnosed with severe Cerebral Palsy.

________________________________

 

"I met Pektra and at first he was very shy little boy. At snack time the teachers had to help feed him and hold him to sit up, he couldn't do much for himself, his motor skills were very poor. The longer Pektra stayed at Epic Arts the better his movement became and eventually he was able to do everything by himself. He is a very smart boy and I was always impressed with his literacy and numeracy skills" - Kagna, SEP Team Leader & Teacher.

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Pektra loves to learn so despite not having a learning disability he continued to study in the class until he was old enough for mainstream education.

Our SEP admin team got to work on advocating for him to join his local primary school. It took a while but Pektra was eventually accepted to a school near his home and just like the rest of the children in his village Pektra began primary school at 6 years old.

Although that's not where our story ends, after a child with a disability is acepted into school we continue to follow up with them to make sure they're getting the best education. Chanthat, our Social Worker, has been working with Pektra, his family & the school for the past five years.

"My job is to make sure Pektra is being fully included in school and  to ensure that he is happy. At first it was difficult because the teachers didn't understand his special needs or even the fact that he was able to learn, but eventually they saw how bright he is and that he is just like the other children. Over the years it has become easier but we were still faced with challenges, one of the biggest challenges has been that the school isn't accessible so a big issue was bathroom facilities. Pektra is twelve years old but he has to wear a nappy to school!"- Chanthat, Social Worker

Pektra completed primary school earlier this year but the closest secondary school is far from his home and because Pektra's mobility is limited it wasn't feasible for him to study there. Chanthat worked tirelessly on securing a scholarship for Pektra to join a school specifically for children with disabilities.

"I'm so happy that my son can go to Lavalla, he loves to learn English, Computer and Khmer Literacy. He is a happy child and he loves to play with other children. He is most excited that they have a swimming pool at his new school. Swimming is really good for his mobility and he loves playing in a pool" - Sina, Pektra's Mother


"I'm happy that Pektra has the opportunity to study like other children, his disability shouldn't stop him from getting an education. He is a great student and I think he has a bright future ahead of him" - Kagna, SEP Team Leader & Teacher

"I'm happy because Pektra has the chance to make his life better, he will be going to a school that's accessible and inclusive if he never joined Epic Arts I don't think he would have ever been enrolled in school" - Chanthat, Social Worker

Pektra is now enoroled and boarding at the school and we wish him well!

If you'd like to help us provide education to more children with disabilities please donate to our project. 

Pektra enjoying a day out
Pektra enjoying a day out
Pektra in grade 1
Pektra in grade 1
Pektra aged 4 at Epic Arts SEP class
Pektra aged 4 at Epic Arts SEP class
Savun in costume ready for a performance
Savun in costume ready for a performance

"I always loved performing & making silly faces"

I started acting at school when I was 15. I loved acting, but it was something I did for fun. My wildest dream was to become a performer.

My time at school was coming to an end. One day I was reading the newspaper and wondering what to do next. That's when I saw the advert for the Inclusive Arts Course.

It looked perfect, I was so excited about the course it had all the things I enjoyed doing. I borrowed my friends phone and looked up Epic Arts.

I saw the Epic Arts Happy video, I watched it again and again, I thought all the dancers looked so cool. I wanted to do that! I asked the School Director if I could apply to join the course.

"Growing up people in my community gave me a new name ‘Broken Leg’."

When I was growing up people didn’t call me by my real name, people in my community gave me a new name ‘Broken Leg’.

I was in an accident when I was three months old and my right leg didn’t develop in the same way as my left leg.

I grew up with a leg that wasn’t strong so I knew that I had to be strong. I didn’t like the people who called me ‘Broken Leg’, they made me angry. I became determined to be smarter than them.

I knew I couldn’t do traditional physical work so I made it my mission to study hard and get good knowledge. I could prove all the mean people wrong and I would be able to support myself.

"I’d never seen someone like me in a important job."

When I saw that the Director of Epic Arts was a Cambodian women with a disability it made me feel proud!

Seeing Sokny as the head of an organisation gave me more energy to keep going, to keep trying, to keep gaining experience and growing my knowledge and maybe one day I could be a role-model to a girl with a disability.

After a week at Epic Arts I knew that I defiantly wanted to join the Inclusive Arts Course. It was all the things I loved doing and Epic Arts had many staff with disabilities who were inspiring to me.

“When I came to Epic Arts my dreams came true!”

Now I’ve graduated from the course, I’m much more confident in myself. Before I used to think that I would fall over if I tried to dance or that my leg would break!

Before I joined Epic Arts I didn’t like to work in a team, I worked by myself and that's how I liked it. Now I like working together with others, it makes me happy to be in a supportive community.

I’ve had a lot of opportunities at Epic Arts to gain different types of work experience. As well as studying I worked at the Epic Arts café on Saturdays and I also worked at the Come Back Brighter show. I liked working with the customers and learning to make cake.

“The biggest thing I learnt during the course is that if you have a disability don’t think that you can’t do things. Believe in yourself - you also have value to society!”

 

Savun Graduated the Inclusive Arts Course in April 2017 after completing the two-year Inclusive Arts Course . After Graduating Savun applied for and secured a position at Epic Arts.

Savun is now a performer at Epic Arts. She works in the Theatre company to deliver workshops, create and tour performances about issues in Cambodian society.

We are currently looking for new students to join our Inclusive Arts Course. 

Please donate if you’d like to support another young person to join the Inclusive Arts Course.

Donations big and small make a huge difference to our work and any gift helps us to continue to change lives.

Savun in dance class with fellow IAC students
Savun in dance class with fellow IAC students
Savun painting a mural she designed
Savun painting a mural she designed
Savun delivering a workshop at a local school
Savun delivering a workshop at a local school

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Organization Information

Epic Arts

Location: London - United Kingdom
Website: http:/​/​www.epicarts.org.uk
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @EpicArtsNews
Project Leader:
Anthony Evans
London, United Kingdom

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