The 11 students enrolled in the Epic Arts Vocational Training Program, an expansive grounding in art education with the aim of sharing the knowledge with others who are living with disabilities, have begun their second and final year of training.
The program involves taking courses on a wide variety of skills such as photography, contemporary dance and prop design, said Hannah Stevens, managing director for Epic Arts.
Specialists in their art form, from places such as Australia, Japan and the United Kingdom, have been traveling to Kampot province, where Epic Arts is based, to teach the students a variety of global art forms. In addition to the arts, the students are also learning skills that allow them to head their own classes and workshops.
“In presenting strong and empowered disabled role models to the wider community, it begins to shift people’s negative perception of people with disabilities,” she said. “Artistic performance and facilitations is a really positive way of presenting those role models to the communities.”
Ms Stevens said the inaugural program started in March 2009 when a group of Deaf Development Program students were graduating and were on their way to start vocational training in fields such as sewing or mechanics. Many of the students were participating in Epic Arts’ programs and the group started planning a way to employ some of the students in the arts.
After finishing their course, all 11 students will be employed by Epic Arts, Ms Stevens added.
“After they graduate they, they will be hired as [Epic Arts] staff as there are few places that require these skills and it fits with our long-term goal of local people implementing our work,” Ms Stevens said.
The 11 students were chosen for the program based on how committed they were, their promise and their abilities to be a good role model. Although the training is scheduled to finish this time next year, Ms Stevens said program completion is flexible as some people learn at different rates.
“We believe very much in the power of creative expression for all people and the community of people living with disabilities in Cambodia have even less opportunities to access these opportunities than non-disabled people,” Ms Stevens said.