Year Joined MKLM: 1987
City: Phnom Penh
Project(s): Ministry with Deaf People
People Served: 120 students
Project Goal(s): Research and develop Cambodian Sign Language as well as teach literacy and sign language
Fr. Charles Dittmeier (Charlie) is a Diocesan priest from Louisville, KY. Before joining MKLM in 1987 he served at St. Aloysius parish in Louisville. He served in Hong Kong from 1987 until 2000. Since then he has served in Cambodia. Throughout Charlie’s entire ministry he has always worked with the deaf—beginning with his time at seminary in Baltimore.
Charlie lives and works in Cambodia, focusing on ministry with deaf people. The reality of the deaf in Cambodia is particularly marginalized. According to officials of the World Federation of the Deaf, Cambodia is the only country in the world that did not have some kind of sign language before 1996. Unlike other countries it also had no organizations for the deaf.
Charlie works with one of the two recently created organizations in Cambodia that serves the deaf—the Deaf Development Program. He serves as Project Director. In addition to the project’s efforts to further development of a national sign language, it has taken on a program to develop leadership skills within the deaf community. The intent is to find as many deaf people as possible, bring them together, let them get to know each other, and slowly establish deaf organizations such as a deaf club in each of the areas. Then there will be leadership training in those groups.
In addition, Charlie serves as Deafness Advisor to the National Disability Action Council. His work there is to promote and coordinate initiatives serving the deaf population in all of Cambodia. This includes emergency situations that arise with deaf people and their families.
Charlie’s lifelong experience working with the deaf offers invaluable insight and resources to the pioneer efforts being carried out in Cambodia. His pastoral skills provide an additional benefit for all whom he serves.