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Story and Photos by Huong Nita | Training Manager | Heifer Cambodia

Before Oum Sinuon became a literacy facilitator, she faced rejection from some of her fellow villagers. She was told her kyphosis (humpback) rendered her useless.

"I felt discouraged and sometimes I criticized myself," Oum said.

In January 2012, Heifer International and the Disability Development Services Program (DDSP) in Pursat province, Cambodia, implemented the project, Community Empowerment and Environmental Protection Surround Tonle Sap Lake.

Oum had dropped out of school because her family could not afford her education. But now, the 28-year-old Literacy Facilitator provides literacy classes for women groups.

"It was very fortunate for me to get to know Heifer's partner DDSP," she said.

Oum attended DDSP trainings and Heifer's 12 Cornerstones for Just and Sustainable Development training. She visited participants who attended the Values Based Literacy Class to share her knowledge and skills.

"It was the moment I realized that the disabled like me also have a right to be literacy facilitators," Oum said. "Now, I am no longer self-stigmatized and I feel that I am confident to do things for myself and for the people in my village. I am proud to be a literacy facilitator and I can teach the illiterate people to have at least basic reading and writing skills. I have more friends now."

Tep Srun, Oum's father and Tasak Villlage chief, said he is happy to see his daughter's transformation. "Heifer has changed my daughter's behavior and daily activities. She used to just watch TV and listen to music in her room. Now she reads books and socializes with friends and family. She also writes lessons for her literacy class."

Oum joyfully responded, "I will never forget to thank DDSP and Heifer Cambodia for their generous support of me and my village. I got this job because of them. I try to improve myself and learn more knowledge and skills from people around me. I believe that through me and others, there will be a positive change in my community."

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Heifer International

Heifer International is a nonprofit, non-governmental organization working with communities to end hunger and poverty while caring for the Earth.