The fundraising activity (selling homemade foods in order to raise money to start a business) wasn't really an economic success, but it was a success in another sense. Leading up to the event, these Deaf men and women were extremely intimidated and nervous. They kept asking, "How are we going to communicate with the hearing customers? How will we understand what they want? What if they ask questions?" In order to address these issues, we created a menu with the images of the signs.
The hearing customers would first consult the menu, learn how to order what they wanted, and then placed their orders in sign language. Not only did the hearing customers love it, but the Deaf men and women working the fundraiser realized that with the right adaptations in their work environment, they can do anything!
|Customers learning how to place their food orders|
Using the money made during this activity, we plan to hold other fundraising activities (as well as look for donations) until these men and women have the money necessary in order to start their own business. We have two ideas. 1) Rent a space to open up a coffee shop. 2) Buy a food truck and establish the first Deaf-run food truck in the Dominican Republic. This way, they will have the freedom to sell in different locations and at different activities. This will give the working Deaf population more visibility. I imagine activities where everyone excitedly tells their friends to go buy from the food truck run by the Deaf! It is something unique, which gives them an advantage. However, this is a work in progress.
Working toward this end, we started a business administration class, which quickly has turned into more of a math class, as we are seeing that there are certain common weaknesses. All of the participants are very enthusiastic to be learning math, which I find to be quite strange. But they love it! This will be important so that they do not allow themselves to be cheated by their customers, to help them learn how to buy their products and supplies wisely, to make and follow through with a budget, etc.
Most of these adults, for one reason or another, did not make it past an elementary or middle school education. And that education that they received was sub-par. The new generation of Deaf children and adolescents are getting a better education, but these adults have been forgotten about. One day, I would like to provide an adult education program. But one step at a time.
We also finished the decorations using recycled material class. The final products turned out great! However, due to the extreme patience required to make these products, we finished the class with only four participants hahaha!!
These are just a few of the finished products.
I just cannot explain how exciting it has been to watch this program develop. And yes, I do feel as though I'm simply watching because everything that we need arrives at our doorstep. I never have to ask or go looking for anything. Each class leads to another one through the same organizations (ACOPRO, CONCERTA, Ciudad Alternativa, etc.) and people who are touched by what we do and share the vision with their friends. I have learned a lot about living by faith and finding the balance between faith and action. I certainly don't have it figured out, and I probably never will. But I am learning more and more every day. I am so thankful that God has chosen to use me in his plan for the Deaf community here in the Dominican Republic.
On a personal note, I finished my Master's degree! I am so relieved to be done, so thankful to God for giving me the strength to get through it, and so ready to not have that hanging over my head hahaha!