Weh with Ling

Weh Yeoh is using speech therapy treatment to help Cambodian children go to school

Aug 18, 2015

While the ability to communicate might not be something we think about too often, for Weh Yeoh it’s something that most people absolutely take for granted.

Weh, who grew up in Carlingford, is the founder of OIC Cambodia, a non-governmental organisation which aims to introduce speech therapy and training to the children of Cambodia.

“Just to put it into perspective, Australia has over 6000 dedicated speech therapists while Cambodia has none,” Weh says.

“Australia is very lucky in that its education system includes all people, disabled or not … this doesn’t happen in Cambodia. When I went there three years ago, I saw how under-resourced it was. There was no infrastructure for inclusion.

“Seventy per cent of children needed some form of speech therapy but there were no therapists in the whole country. I just thought this is something I can’t walk away from.”

After launching OIC himself in 2012, Weh’s organisation ballooned to 40 volunteers following some very positive early results with three out of the 13 children who were part of his initial study able to attend school for the first time due to his speech therapy treatments.

His team now boasts a number of experts in a wide variety of disciplines ranging from speech therapists and instructors to media and HR professionals.

“The thing about Australians is that they love to champion an underdog cause,” says Weh of the many people who came to him offering their services.

“I think there’s definitely precedent for this sort of thing with the Fred Hollows Foundation. It shows that a small team of individuals can really have the power to kickstart something.”

Despite the hard work and long hours Weh and his team puts into the cause every day, being able to see the reactions of parents when they see their children able to communicate for the first time is reward enough.

“Parents are usually a little bit sceptical but they’re also amazed when they see the results.”

First Published in Northern District Times.