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Never Met Another Deaf Person
[Image description: A man sits behind a table. At the start of the video, he is nodding vigorously in response to someone who is off camera. He signs in Ghana Sign Language.]
“That is a true story! One time I went to a village in a remote area. A sign language interpreter went with me. We met with three or four deaf children. The interpreter spoke. People listened and understood that of course he spoke.
“But then I started signing and people were startled and then confused. They asked, ‘Who are you?’ The interpreter told them, ‘This is a Deaf man who flew to America to study.’ They said, ‘That’s impossible! He’s deaf! The interpreter is white. But him? How!? That does not work!’
“I told them, ‘I’m Deaf, I can communicate.’ The family started to understand. Meanwhile, the deaf child was watching me. Funny [odd], when I left, the child cried. Why? Because he knew that he and I were the same. I went to visit many deaf people.
Breaking the Cycle
“Now those children have grown. I could show you pictures. All together, maybe 13 children. Before they lived in darkness, in remote places. They never met another Deaf person. They were confined to a room. Their families were afraid, if they go out maybe they’ll be hit by a car. They were protective.
“When I came, I broke that cycle. I told them, ‘No! He can go to a deaf school!’ They were surprised. ‘They have a deaf school?’ I told them, ‘Yes! They have a deaf school!’ I helped them find money so they could send their deaf child to school.
“But after I left, they took that money, ignored the deaf child, and used the money for their hearing children. Later, the deaf boy saw me and said he still could not write. I asked, ‘Why?’ The mother did not really have a clear answer. I told her, “No, he must go to school.’ Now the boy is grown. He knows signing, he knows this and this, and he knows himself.”
Robert Sampana is the Project Advocacy Officer at the Ghana National Association of the Deaf (GNAD). Years ago, he changed the lives of young deaf children living in remote villages. Back then, the children and their families had never met another deaf person. Watch as he explains what happened. Robert signs in Ghana Sign language. Meanwhile, the transcript is in English.
This short clip is taken from a longer interview. Watch the full 30-minute interview with Robert Sampana.