School boys’ commit to silence for a day

School boys’ commit to silence for a day

On Thursday, hundreds of students from a top private school stopped speaking and remained silent for an entire school day.

The 800 students from Sydney’s Trinity Grammar School, aged from five to 12, were taking part in Day Without Speech – a program which raises funds to provide speech therapy to Cambodians.

By participating in the challenge, students learned valuable lessons about the value of communication and it fostered gratitude and empathy for those with special needs.

They also managed to raise $19,000, which will support OIC Cambodia’s work to establish speech therapy as a profession in Cambodia. 2018 marks the third year in a row that the students have participated in the challenge, raising a total of $55,000.

Based in Phnom Penh, OIC’s aim is to make speech therapy available to all who need it in the country. The organisation has a long-term plan and an exit strategy – to have 100 Cambodian speech therapists employed by the government by 2030.

“If someone does break the silence, we wave our finger at them in silence, or we look at each other and laugh,” Year 6 Junior School student and charities and community leader, Joshua Leverton, told ABC Radio.

“It was a big challenge for us the first year – lots of kids broke the silence but the second year it wasn’t so bad.”

Leverton added that many children around the world face difficulties simply because they cannot communicate.

Trinity alumni and Sydney native, Mr Weh Yeoh – who founded OIC Cambodia – said in Cambodia, children with a disability are often excluded from school, which has a huge impact on their future prospects.

“More than 600,000 or one in 25 people in Cambodia, many of them children, have a speaking or swallowing disability, which impacts them physically, mentally and socially,” Yeoh said.

“In Australia there are over 7,500 speech therapists, but in Cambodia there is not one Cambodian university-trained speech therapist. There are no government policies addressing the issue, and very little awareness of the issue.”

Trinity Grammar School teacher, Craig Hassall, said the feedback from students and staff is always positive.

“Staff say that it enhanced learning in some ways, with students having to work more independently,” Hassall said.

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