City University graduate and newly qualified language and speech therapist Rebecca Knill used her skills to help Cambodian children with their speech development.
22 year old Rebecca, of Tower Hamlets, worked with children born with cleft lip and cleft palate in hospitals across Phnom Penh, the capital and largest city in Cambodia. She was aided on her project by a volunteering grant from the Jack Petchey Foundation.
Children with cleft lip/palate are born with a hole in the top of the mouths. Although the hole can be repaired by surgery, it can have a severe impact on an individual’s speech progression. With an extreme lack of resources and awareness for speech therapy in Cambodia, the role of qualified volunteers like Rebecca is crucial in helping children with the condition develop their ability to communicate.
For three months, Rebecca worked with infants in the Children’s Surgical Centre and the National Paediatric Hospital, where she also trained local Speech Advisors and gave advice to parents.
She said, “Speech and language therapy is vital to children’s development as it can also affect their ability to feed, which can lead to malnutrition. It is rewarding to have been able to provide advice, resources and therapy for infants with cleft lip/palate, and deliver training to hospital staff so the treatment programme can be maintained in the future.”
As well as working with the children and hospital staff, Rebecca helped to establish multidisciplinary links between hospitals and other professional facilities involved with cleft lip and palate including audiology and orthodontic services across Phnom Penh. She also made a video for parents in Kymer, the language of Cambodia, about cleft lip/palate and how best to support infants with the condition. You can watch the video on YouTube here.
City University began the Cambodia Speech and Language Therapy project in 2006 to send trained graduates to an area where their expertise is needed. Volunteers from previous years remain involved in the planning, development, selection and training processes for each new cohort of therapists embarking on the programme.
Congratulations to Rebecca for using her acquired skills and education to make a positive difference to the lives of children and the parents in Cambodia for years to come.
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