Deaf Week

This Tuesday of Deaf Week had a coffee theme, and members of a delegation from the Embassy of the Czech Republic and the Agile NGO were invited to share coffee with the deaf students.
The theme for Wednesday of Deaf Week was khramas, the cotton scarf used by everyone in any fashion or way that suits your needs.
I had to get help to tie a khrama around my head somewhat artfully!

Deaf Week


Every year deaf people around the world celebrate Deaf Week to inform people about their deaf culture and to encourage the inclusion of deaf people into the societies and communities where they live.

This year a major change for our Deaf Day was moving to a new venue, a Salesian Sisters school in Phnom Penh. We were afraid it might seem far away for members of the deaf community but it turned out to be an ideal location.
Another change this year was having the big Deaf Day celebration on the Sunday at the beginning of Deaf Week instead of at the end of the week. The morning saw an opening talk and the a story-telling activity. Then it was time for lunch which was prepared by the hearing students in the hotel hospitality training program at the school.
After lunch there were some games pitting teams against each other. The games are always a most enjoyable time for these gatherings.
Then it was time for the major activity of the day, a food-tasting event. Volunteers from the English Catholic Community prepared foods from their home countries to give the deaf people a taste and a glimpse of different cultures from around the world.
Deaf people experience tremendous isolation. Hearing people tend to avoid them because they don’t know to communicate with deaf people, and so when we have a large gathering like this a major attraction is just catching up with old friends and chatting in sign language.
We also have a Deaf Day celebration in Kampong Cham Province but this year we also invited a group from Kampong Cham to participate with us in Phnom Penh.

Embassy Visit to DDP

The Maryknoll Deaf Development Programme has had a partnership with People in Need, focusing on employment projects. People in Need introduced DDP to Agile, another Cambodian NGO, and to the embassy of the Czech Republic with whom they worked. Last week a delegation from People in Need, Agile, and the Czech Republic Embassy came to visit DDP.

First the visitors met with the DDP management team and Charlie Dittmeier explained DDP’s vision and projects. That day was “coffee day” for DDP’s celebration of Deaf Week, so our visitors got to mingle with our deaf students enjoying coffee that day.
It was a good experience for both the visitors from the embassy and for our deaf students who don’t get much opportunity to interact with hearing people. Such an exchange helps to develop their identity as people worth knowing and with something to offer. Here students help the visitors prepare their coffee.
A second stop on their visit was at the DDP barbershop which is already benefiting from a small grant offered by the Czech Embassy in cooperation with the Agile NGO.

Interpreter Graduation

Today we had a graduation ceremony for the first batch of Cambodia Sign Language interpreters to be trained after the formation of the National Institute of Special Education.

Hang Kimchhorn, the director of the National Institute of Special Education, presented the certificates to the new interpreters who are greatly needed for more progress in integrating deaf people into Cambodian society.
The interpreter trainers are all former interpreters for the Deaf Development Programme, and three of the graduates today are current staff members at DDP.

Asian Deaf Catholic Conference 7

The morning of the last full day at the Samadi retreat center, I presided at the morning mass.

Before the mass began, I explained that I would be using American Sign Language.
The gospel was about Jesus healing a man with a paralyzed hand and four deaf people, from Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Singapore, and Hong Kong, helped act it out.
Role playing, as in the gospel reading, is a common part of deaf culture.
Two deaf people from Sri Lanka brought forward the bread and wine we used for the celebration of the eucharist.

Asian Deaf Catholic Conference 6

The next day was a cruise out to an island in the Java Sea north of Jakarta.

All 150 of the ADCC participants were on this boat for a 1 1/2 hour cruise to Pramuka Island. Passengers had a choice of the open upper deck or the air conditioned lower deck.
Just after getting off the ferry, everyone was offered a coconut to drink.
One half the group then took a smaller boat to go snorkeling in a shallow area of the Java Sea but I was in the other group that went to a mangrove rehabilitation center where we planted a mangrove cluster that protects the island from erosion by the sea.
Then we walked to a sea turtle preserve where the seven different species of sea turtles were shown and a park ranger explained their turtle conservation efforts.
Then it was back to Jakarta and we had a special dinner at a seafood restaurant before heading back to the retreat center.

Asian Deaf Catholic Conference 5

Cultural Night
After the meetings, we gathered in the hall for our Sunday liturgy with the priest from Korea presiding.
Then it was time for a special dinner. A traditional symbolic basket of food was presented first.
Some trained dancers then presented traditional Indonesian dances.

Then the deaf country groups performed short national dances. First, Japan…
….then Thailand.

Asian Deaf Catholic Conference 4

After two days of sightseeing, the work of the conference began, but first each country was invited to set up a display of their culture and activities and the deaf community. Here Japan posts some photos from their activities.
As part of their display, Japan offered deaf people from other countries to dress up in Japanese costumes.
Then the meetings began. A major focus of discussion was whether this organization should continue as just a regular conference or should become a forma association of Catholic deaf people in Asia.
the first discussions were followed by reports from each of the countries on their activities.
Later discussions on the that major issue were continued in small groups.