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Hearing and Deaf Kids Connecting

In one school in Zimbabwe, Africa, hearing students and deaf students didn't interact. But one day, that changed--hearing and deaf kids connected.
Screenshot of a video in which a man is seated in front of a green background, signing to the camera. English captions are at the bottom of the screen.

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Image Description

In the upper left corner of the screen, text says “Webcast: Kirk Van Gilder”. A man is seated and faces the camera throughout the video. He signs in American Sign Language (ASL), and the video has captions in English.

Background: Deaf Students in Zimbabwe

With the second point, let’s see how it’s important. I’ll share a story as an example of what I mean. I remember the first time I went to Zimbabwe [the country sign]. I visited and interacted with the deaf community there. I noticed their areas with deaf schools would be in the rural but in the cities, there’s no deaf schools since I went. Or they’d integrate in hearing classrooms then realize it’s better to have a deaf classroom among all the classrooms in a hearing school. So in that classroom, I’d work with the kids for about a week.

They’d have a big ceremony, welcoming visitors from America, prancing us along, in front of a large audience. I’d look around and wonder where the deaf students were. They were sitting way in the back of the hall with the teacher signing small. We felt uncomfortable with that but trying to observe how the culture is with the audience honoring visitors. Yet the deaf students are all the way in the back.

The Closing Ceremony

I thought about it all week while working with deaf students and the teacher in the classroom. Then Friday during the closing ceremony we informed the school headmaster that we’d like to have an audience again for the closing ceremony. We’d like to demonstrate what the deaf students have learned so far They agreed and thought it was a good idea.

So we started planning for a large audience. We had deaf students ready with an interpreter. The teacher was ready to interpret visibly. Last time they were in the back but this time they were in the front.

Deaf Kids Teaching Hearing Kids

Then we called the deaf students to come up on the stage, wanting them to teach the audience the A-B-Cs in sign language. [it was different from America’s A-B-C in ASL] We wanted to teach their A-B-Cs. So we called forth the deaf students and they all came up on stage. We announced “these students will teach you the A-B-Cs”.

Those deaf kids were really thrilled to lead in front of the audience. We’d see them signing the A, B, C, D, E, F, G in their sign language. It was so sweet. The kids were so proud standing up there in front of their peers, finally teaching them. The kids in the audience were excited to learn. The teachers also learned from them.

Hearing and Deaf Kids Connecting

After the ceremony ended, we saw the hearing kids approach the deaf kids trying to sign and practice spelling their name with the deaf kids. They started to interact. While in the past they were isolated and in the back of the audience. Everyone would be facing forward and not notice the deaf kids, they wouldn’t know. Now they are interacting.

So it’s also important to see how they arrange the school assembly, honoring the leaders, but take the advantage to include the local deaf people and letting them lead. So the others can see and create a connection.

In one school in Zimbabwe, Africa, hearing students and deaf students didn’t interact. But one day, that changed–hearing and deaf kids connected. Watch this short story from Rev. Kirk Van Gilder, Ph.D, to learn how.

This video clip is taken from a longer, 30-minute Webcast, “How We are Walking on Holy Ground When Entering Deaf Communities.” In the full-length Webcast, American Kirk Van Gilder shares stories about his travels to Kenya, Zimbabwe, and Turkey. Furthermore, he explains how we are walking on holy ground when entering Deaf communities in another country. Follow the link to watch the full Webcast.

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