Teacher travels to help disabled

25th February 2000 at 00:00
NEIL TURNER RICHARD O'Brien is one of the first disabled British teachers to volunteer to work in Thailand. When he takes up his placement he will be aiming to change attitudes to disability.

Mr O'Brien, 36, who was a thalidomide baby, will be based in the poverty stricken Buriram region. His job, courtesy of Voluntary Services Overseas, is to support and train primary teachers in 850 mainly rural schools.

Opportunities for disabled people in Thailand, a predominantly Buddhist culture, are limited, a state of affairs Mr O'Brien would like to change. He says: "It is not just what you can do during the two years but what you leave behind afterwards. If I can change te attitudes of some of the teachers and headteachers then I know that, when I come back, I will have achieved something lasting.

"When people see what can be achieved by a thalidomide survivor, it will encourage them to allow disabled children in their communities to access education and raise their expectations."

Mr O'Brien's first challenge when he gets to Thailand will be attending a 10 week course to learn the language. He works as a supply teacher with Select Education, specialising in helping children with disabilities.

Buriram has a population of around 500,000 people, mainly belonging to the Lao, Khmer and Suay ethnic groups.

Steve Hook

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