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Julie Lawler

Year Joined MKLM:

Country: Cambodia

City: Phnom Penh

Ministry: Maryknoll Deaf Development Programme

Ministry area: Justice and Peace / Disability ministry

Goals of ministry: To empower deaf people; to develop their education, language, employment and community; and to raise awareness and understanding of deafness, deaf people and their culture within Cambodian society.

Nonviolence Focus:

Prevention and intervention are the two focuses we have at DDP in regards to nonviolence. With the development of language and basic education formation, students at DDP begin to develop skills in being more self-aware, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills and practice being responsible decision makers. When there are conflict or problems, we need to develop skills in identifying feelings, expressing our thoughts and feelings, listening to perspectives, problem solving and coming to a resolution.

While the personal development and growth for deaf people is one part of our work here, we are also focused on changing the way society views deaf people. Societal stereotypes have harmed and perpetuated the violence that happens towards people with disabilities here in Cambodia. The work done at DDP is therefore challenging the societal stereotypes and the actual options for deaf people to change their lives. The work is aiming to change structures that affect prejudicial views people have and people and powers that discriminate, and to bring awareness to the ongoing oppression of deaf people.


Ministry Context:

Cambodia is among the top 12 poorest countries in Asia, and an estimated 61,000 deaf people live there. Deaf people are one of the marginalized and underserved sub-minority groups in Cambodia.

Formal Sign Language was documented around the 1700’s being developed by Charles Michel de l’Eppe. Yet in Cambodia, sign language linguists and deaf activists did not start identifying and documenting Cambodian Sign Language until 1997. As a result, there is still a lack of resources, education, and awareness around deaf people in this country. Biased feelings towards people with disabilities in Cambodia still remain and therefore a lot of individuals with disabilities who do not receive basic education or receive little to no support.

The Deaf Development Programme (DDP) was established to serve deaf young adults and teens who were unable to receive accessible education at an early age like their hearing peers. DDP offers two years of basic education and community development with other deaf individuals (ages 15 to 40-plus years) that includes learning Cambodian Sign Language, basic Khmer literacy, simple mathematics, life skills and relationship building with Deaf Community Center events held each weekend.

After that, a one-year course in job training is available. In job training, the students either become employed in businesses or they are self-employed in their own businesses. Graduates from job training find work in barbering, beauty salons, ring molding, sewing and embroidery. When the deaf individuals leave DDP, they will have skills to earn money, language to communicate and more self-awareness, which leads to self-reliance, the ability to be a part of society and means to support their families.


Current Ministry:

Julie serves at DDP in an educational advisory role that supports programs in different capacities: basic education, deaf community development, job training, and social services. Julie’s background in deaf education, general education and special education provide her with essential knowledge that meets the needs at DDP, like providing training (teacher training with specifics in how to teach deaf students, as well as training on hearing loss and deaf awareness to different organizations serving in Cambodia), capacity building in social emotional learning, leadership workshops, and collaborating, as a DDP educational advisor, with the National Institute of Special Education, which serves K-12 programming for deaf students. Julie contributes by sharing teaching strategies for deaf students, differentiated instruction approaches, bilingual education strategies and approaches, and activities that align with their curriculum goals.

In addition to that, Julie also contributes and collaborates with staff on the development of life skills activities, leadership training, STEM/team building activities and social emotional learning workshops with the students. Julie led the Deaf Week celebration event in 2022 and worked with her DDP team to plan, coordinate, and schedule the deaf awareness celebration with the deaf community of more than 200 people.


Personal Data:

Julie is originally from College Station, Texas. She studied at the University of Arizona, where she received her bachelor of science in special education. She also has a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and master’s degree in deaf education from Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., the premier institution for learning, teaching, and research for deaf and hard-of-hearing students (the primary language used on campus is American Sign Language).

After graduation, Julie moved to Austin, Texas where she was a deaf education teacher at the Texas School for the Deaf for 11 years. With a desire for change and a push from God, Julie was searching for a way to still be involved in the deaf community, deaf education and building relationships with deaf people and combine that with her Catholic faith and serving abroad in mission. That’s how she found Maryknoll Lay Missioners. Julie was a parishioner at St. Ignatius Martyr Catholic Church in Austin, Texas, and was involved with youth ministry there for five years.