Making the world more peaceful, one student at a time - Maryknoll Lay Missioners
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Lent 2024 newsletter


Julie Lawler, Cambodia

Sreytin spreads baby powder on the face of a DDP student during a game.

Sreytin is spreading baby powder on a student’s cheek after losing a game. Sreytin is one of the main staff who organize events and games for DDP students. (Photos by Sopor Lay, DDP)

My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.
—1 John 3:18

I would like to highlight a DDP staff member who truly has a heart for the deaf community. Through her deeds she instills important seeds of wisdom in our DDP students. Sreytin is a teacher assistant at the Deaf Development Programme (DDP) and a former student at DDP.

Sreytin with student

Sreytin is meeting with a student who needed to share a problem with her. She meets with students regularly to give them a safe space to share their thoughts and needs.

Sreytin understands how our deaf students feel; like many of them, she had lived isolated for 25-plus years of her life, not having a formal language to communicate with her family. She came to DDP at the age of 25 and learned Cambodian Sign Language for the first time.

Without language, deaf people live in isolation; they experience life with many challenges, compared to other people who have access to language at an early age. It is Sreytin’s attention to detail and her willingness to give her time to respond to the needs of the students that sets her apart from other staff.

Sreytin is aware of the complications that often arise in a deaf person’s life when family members don’t know sign language, how deaf people are often treated as “less than” or taken advantage of and how deaf students might fight in the dorm housing when living with each other in close quarters.

She has lived through many of the same experiences and knows how to counsel, console and support the deaf students as they go through their two-year basic education program here at DDP.


The most precious gift we can offer anyone is our attention.
When mindfulness embraces those we love, they will bloom like flowers. 
—Thich Nhat Hanh

In clear and visible ways, Sreytin promotes informal ways of implementing a preventative approach to nonviolence (she has not had direct teaching/training on nonviolence strategies or techniques).

Julie and Sreytin

Sreytin and Julie during DDP’s annual staff retreat.

She has found ways to transform conflict, build social ties and restore relationships between students. She helps them share their thoughts, troubles and feelings. She creates a safe place for them to talk when they need to. She teaches the students how to solve problems and settle arguments among themselves. Sreytin does this through dialogue, active listening and role-playing.

Sreytin does more than just teach in class. Her life skills approach to interacting with the deaf students gives the deaf students practical tools and situational awareness of how to address issues in their life. She knows that not being able to communicate can lead to anger, frustration, confusion and sometimes to fights or intense altercations (between hearing and deaf people). By teaching students how to express themselves well, she helps stop violence before it starts:

  • Teaching students sign language and practicing how to communicate their thoughts and feelings. Having language as a resource and gaining skills in communicating helps reduce misunderstandings and allows for the deaf students to stand up for themselves.
  • One-on-one sessions with students on how to handle conflict, share feelings, listen to their needs and then give feedback. These opportunities teach students healthy ways to deal with emotions and process their thoughts.
  • Building support groups among our students, which have been a new experience at DDP. Sreytin joined a workshop with 10 DDP students that included weeklong trauma healing sessions with three visiting counselors who are skilled with working with deaf children. In the workshops the students shared their feelings of isolation, anger, fear and loneliness with the counselors and through their activities the students were able to feel some relief. The support group was a way for the students to experience healing and learn how to tell their story, which then builds a foundation for restorative practices.

In Sreytin’s ways of loving and interacting with the deaf students, her approach aligns with many aspects of nonviolence teachings. Sreytin is dedicated. She uses every chance to teach peace and respect. It inspires the students to do the same in their lives.

Through her actions, Sreytin shows that stopping violence begins with teaching deaf people to talk (sign) and connect. She works hard to make the world “for each deaf student at DDP” more peaceful — one student at a time.

Please consider supporting my mission work at the Deaf Development Programme with a donation through the link below.

I invite you to walk with me as a “COMPANION IN MISSION.” Companions in Mission are friends and generous donors who give financial gifts on a regular (usually monthly) basis. For more information, visit Become a Companion in MissionThank you so much for your generosity! 


Julie Lawler
Julie Lawler is a deaf education teacher with the Maryknoll Deaf Development Programme in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.