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Julie Lawler

Year Joined MKLM:

Country: Cambodia

City: Phnom Penh

Ministry: Maryknoll Deaf Development Programme

Ministry area: Justice and Peace

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

Ministry Context:

Cambodia is one of the poorest countries in Asia, and an estimated 51,000 deaf people live there. Deaf people are one sub-minority group that are marginalized and underserved in Cambodia. Most countries have had sign language for more than a hundred years, but in Cambodia there was no recorded sign language for the deaf before 1997.

Due to the lack of resources, education, understanding and biased feelings towards people with disabilities in Cambodia, there are a lot of individuals who do not receive basic education or support. This is one of the reasons why the Deaf Development Programme (DDP) established its programming to serve deaf young adults and teens who were unable to receive accessible education at an early age like their hearing peers.

To receive students at DDP, a field work team is sent out to locate and educate families about the opportunities that are provided at their program. Many families are unaware of this opportunity. DDP serves students ranging in age from 15 to 40-plus years. In their meeting with the families, the staff share information about basic facts about deafness, experiences and stories about previous deaf students so that the families are able to realize their child’s potential. Once the families agree and the deaf students arrive at DDP, six programs provide services and support for them: basic education, sign language, deaf community development, sign language interpreting, job training and social services.

DDP offers two years of basic education and community development with other deaf individuals 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, pig raising, fish farming, etc. 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 needs at DDP like providing teacher training, capacity building and collaborating with each program manager. In basic education, she contributes by sharing new teaching strategies, differentiated instruction, bilingual education, 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 and relationship development between the deaf students and their deaf peers and also the relationship with their deaf/hearing teachers and staff that they regularly interact with.

Equally as important to assisting the programs at DDP, Julie also works one-on-one with a deaf-blind young adult who does not have access to language, communication or family support and is not being educated with the other deaf students due to his individual needs. Julie is in the beginning stages of working with this deaf-blind person at DDP with the hopes of developing a program that will support his individual needs (basic communication, development of concepts, language development, etc.).


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 (ASL).

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 combine that with Catholic mission. All of those desires were met when 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.