A couple of weeks after my last post, one of my favorite people on earth came to the Dominican Republic on a business trip. So, I drove out to Punta Cana to see him (I hadn't been to Punta Cana before) and took him to the Montaña Redonda. We then did some more driving around and spent an awesome day together. It was such a blessing to get to show him the country I'm living in and spend some time with him.
My Dominican family and I also went to Samaná to go whale watching. Samaná is considered to be one of the best places in the world to see humpback whales. Thousands of humpback whales travel to Samaná Bay every year from Iceland, Greenland, Canada, and other areas of North America to give birth. None jumped out of the water, but we did see the backs of about five whales. It was such a beautiful experience. Minus the people puking while we sat still rolling over pretty large waves!
After whale watching, we went to a small island in Samaná Bay called Cayo Levantado, which has beautiful beaches, and we spent the afternoon there. I put on sunscreen three times and still got terribly burned!
We then took a short hike through the woods to a river to cool off and wash off all the sand. It was such a beautiful and fun day. The Dominican Republic is an incredibly gorgeous country.
On the mission side of things, the National Association for the Deaf (ANSORDO) held a workshop in our church for some of the Deaf that live in this area. It was the same human rights workshop that I attended a couple of months ago in a different location. ANSORDO is taking what they were taught by the World Federation of the Deaf and Discovering Deaf Worlds and sharing this knowledge in various locations throughout the country. This sharing of information is so important because it is the only way most of these Deaf adults will receive it. They are not able to take advantage of incidental learning (overhearing conversations between informed people, for example) and the majority of them did not receive adequate educations and cannot read. The only way that they will learn about their rights, politics, and most other topics is if someone intentionally presents it to them in their language. This is exactly what ANSORDO is trying to achieve through these workshops. The more knowledgable the community is, the more opportunities they have to progress.
There is a new project here in the Dominican called Proyecto Protégeme which is giving workshops and educating people on how to protect children from sexual abuse. They invited Deaf and hearing people who work with Deaf children from all over the country and provided one of the workshops for them here in Santo Domingo and also in Santiago. I was able to attend both of them and take advantage of the large gathering of people who work with Deaf children to announce Camp Hands of Joy. The workshop was very informative. I am hoping to work with them and be able to replicate the workshop for the Deaf who attend our church and hopefully provide the workshop they created for children to the students at the Deaf school. The rates of child sexual abuse are insanely high here, and even more so among Deaf children. I was inspired by what those involved in this project are doing.
Now that my Spanish skills have improved somewhat, I have been able to start doing some interpreting. I have been able to interpret for doctor's appointments, family issues, meetings, presentations, and workshops. I feel honored to be the voice for these Deaf people and assist them in living independent lives. Without going into too many details, I will give an example of why this is so important.
One of the Deaf women involved in our vocational training ministry video called me one day very distressed. She told me that she was going to die if she didn't get a particular surgery and that her family refused to do anything to help her. She explained to me her symptoms and said she had gone to see a doctor with her mother (this is a grown woman with an adult son, but she is unable to access medical services on her own due to the communication barrier), but her mother doesn't know sign language either. The woman had gestured and used drama to describe to the doctor what was going on, the doctor ran some tests, told the mother the results and diagnosis, and prescribed some medicine. But no one had any way to explain to the Deaf woman why she was experiencing those symptoms and what the prescriptions were for. What she understood from it all was that she has cancer and needs surgery in order to live. The mother kept telling her no, but the woman understood that her mother was simply refusing to get her the help she needed.
I called the mother, who explained to me the situation from her perspective. I explained to her the other side of the story that I had received from the Deaf woman. We all agreed to visit the doctor again, but with me present as an interpreter. The Deaf woman spent the entire week leading up to the appointment completely distressed. The doctor once again explained to the Deaf woman and her mother the results of her lab tests, why she was experiencing those symptoms, and what the pills she had prescribed were for. But this time, the woman was able to understand it. She was also able to explain more specifically her symptoms, which led to changing the prescription that the woman had already been taking for two weeks. This woman is now on the correct medicine, understands her diagnosis, and is at peace.
This is not a unique story. The lack of interpreters and the Deaf community's inability to pay for them have led to so many unfortunate and tragic situations. There are many people in the country working to improve this situation, but there is still much work to be done.
I was also able to interpret a couple of meetings between ANSORDO and the National Council for the Disabled (CONADIS) who are currently working together with the Ministry of Education in order to create the first real dictionary in Dominican Sign Language. I'm hoping to continue my involvement with that project! Establishing the national sign language would be such a huge and necessary step for this community.
Our Deaf church was selected by the Biblical Society to participate in a project to translate the Bible into Dominican Sign Language in video form. I am so excited to be a part of this project. There are many countries in Latin America who are also working on translating the Bible into their various sign languages. A small group of Deaf and interpreters from here (no, I didn't go) travelled to Ecuador along with teams from the other countries in order to receive training on how to go about this. It is a project that will take probably twenty years at least, and there are many things we need to do before actually beginning to translate, but I am so honored to be involved with this for as long as God calls me to.
I am also working on another project, but that one is currently top secret. I'll tell you all more about that one in a couple of months.
On top of all that, I think I have found some leads and connections that will allow us to start up one to three business where we will hire an all Deaf staff.
This post probably seems extremely sporadic, and that's because I have so many things going on that showed up all of a sudden, and I honestly have no idea where God is leading me. I feel like the Israelites wandering through the desert. God leads me to something, I follow and do that thing until He moves the cloud to a new thing. I follow and do that thing, and so on and so forth. Though I have no idea where the destination is or when I will get there, I know God is with me as He leads me to different places and things. All I have to do is trust and be faithful and obedient. Much easier said than done sometimes. Pray for me!