Back in February, I took a group of Deaf men and women to an organization that was fitting people for free hearing aids. I ended up having to bring about half of them back another day because, as it turns out, they were only fitting people for new hearing aids, not taking repairs. Both experiences were rather disheartening for me, for a few reasons. These people work with the Deaf population on a regular basis, but the employees (the majority) know very little sign language, and they did not have a single interpreter. Both days my group arrived at 7:30am, and the line and process were so long that we left at 4pm. I was the interpreter for every Deaf man and woman who showed up. Which I didn't mind doing, but it was rather exhausting. It was mostly frustrating because these people should have enough respect for this population to hire interpreters when they know that they will have many Deaf clients. Everyone had to wait outside until it was almost their turn, and then they could come wait inside. How did they advise people that it was their turn to come inside or get serviced? THEY CALLED OUT THEIR NAMES IN VOICE! They did not wait to get the attention of the Deaf clients, finger spell the names, or anything. If the Deaf clients didn't hear their names called or one of the hearing people didn't step up and say, "this guy was here before me" or something like that, they simply missed their turns. This apparently happens often.
Regardless, we survived it, and the hearing aids finally came in a couple of weeks ago! Many volunteers from multiple different countries came to give out and fit the new and repaired hearing aids. I took my group on one of the days that they were giving out the hearing aids, and guess what. NO INTERPRETERS! Not only were their no interpreters, but there were multiple stations: a little presentation explaining the whole process, an area for ear cleaning, a waiting area for those with clean ears, multiple stations for fitting and testing the hearing aids, workshops explaining hearing aid care and the organization's repair policies, and a station where they gave out the batteries and bags. My group got sent in all different directions. I spent the entire day running around between stations trying to interpret for my group and other Deaf men and women who had arrived from other places. It was, once again, a very exhausting and frustrating experience for everyone. But, many people are now enjoying their new hearing aids.
|People from many different countries came to help
|One waiting station. There were so many people!!! Probably 300 people in all.
In Santo Domingo, there is an annual book fair, and many different companies and organizations put up booths, workshops, etc. The Ministry of Education has many booths at the book fair, including one for the special education department. They requested that some of the women involved in our vocational training project participate in the booth in order to show and teach others a skill they have learned. We decided to go with the decorations using recycled material class, as it was the most recent and affordable. The women who finished the class went to the book fair and taught hearing people of all ages how to make some basic decorations and household items out of newspaper. Experiences like this give the Deaf community more visibility and show hearing people that these Deaf men and women are intelligent and possess many skills.
We have also been continuing our math class, which these adults LOVE. They are so excited to improve their math skills, and love to practice them. They even request homework to practice throughout the week! We had a fun day of life skills math practice last week. I made fake money and put prices on some of the toys that we have. I assigned a few people to be vendors and others to be customers in order to practice adding up prices and making change. After a while, we switched out the vendors until everyone had a chance. Many of them had informed me that they get cheated when they buy from the colmados (corners stores), because they don't know how to make sure they were given correct change. Only when they go home and ask someone who has these math skills do they find out that they have been cheated. This skill will also be vital when we start their cafeteria business!
Our weekly Bible study has been going very well. Many of the students and Deaf assistant teachers from the Deaf school nearby come, as well as many Deaf adults and a handful of hearing people interested in learning more sign. They are all interested in learning about the Bible, ask questions, have intellectual discussions about what they are learning, and are clearly growing in their faith.
Some of the hearing students from my sign language class have been getting involved with our activities here, and have grown so much in their sign language skills as a result. I am shocked at how quickly they have picked it up! They are so passionate about getting involved in Deaf ministry and preaching the Gospel to this community. One of them even led the Bible study a couple of weeks ago!! In sign language! She did an AMAZING job! I was sooooo proud of her.
The other very cool thing that is happening is that some of our new Christians are stepping up and volunteering to pray and sing at church and Bible study. They either memorize songs that we sing regularly or even make up their own songs, which I find to be so awesome. There are Christian leaders being raised up here, and I am so excited to see what the future holds for this church and for this community of Deaf Christians.
Currently, our biggest problem (which is an amazing "problem" to have), is that we need a larger space to hold our church services. We no longer fit in our sanctuary. Some of the Deaf members have to sit outside because there is no room inside. And the church is continuing to grow. We are praying for some kind of resolution for this "problem". I'm not sure if the answer is to find a new, larger (more expensive) location to rent or if we should try to buy this location and construct a larger sanctuary upstairs or what. Please join us in praying for God's direction in resolving this issue.