The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

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Students help Jamaican deaf school

Three faculty advisors and 14 students majoring in deaf studies spent one week of their winter break volunteering at a deaf residential school in Jamaica.

From Jan. 5-12, the group, who are either deaf or hard of hearing, stayed in dormitory-style housing. Throughout the week, they did hurricane relief maintenance work and worked in classrooms teaching students whose ages ranged from four to 22.

“We did a lot in the classroom with kids,” said Lissa Stapleton, one of the three faculty members who arranged and attended the trip. “We taught one day and did after school programming every day.”

“Our deaf students and our deaf studies students had a chance for direct communication, which is rare when traveling abroad,” Stapleton said.

“It’s important that these type of experiences are open and available for all of our students here at CSUN, including our deaf and hard of hearing students,” Stapleton said. “This trip was really impactful.”

“It was an amazing experience,” Stapleton said. “It’s very, very different than the U.S. Laws are very different. Deaf Jamaicans are not allowed to drive. Most deaf Jamaicans do not go to universities because there are no interpreters in the country and to have the opportunity to go to a university they have to be sponsored to come to the U.S.”

The idea for the trip came last spring when a deaf student tried to organize a spring break trip to Mexico and ended up not being able to go, in part, because many governments in other countries, unlike in the U.S., are not required by law to provide interpreters for the deaf, Stapleton said.

“I think it was an enriching experience for both us and them,” Stapleton said. “Our plan is to go back next year and we may extend our trip.”

“I really felt like we need to have opportunities here for our deaf students to be able to travel abroad and have those same, similar experiences as our hearing students can have,” Stapleton, a Community Director in CSUN Student Housing and the Lighthouse Living Learning Community Facilitator, said.

The Lighthouse LLC is a dormitory specifically designed for deaf, hard of hearing and deaf studies majors. The Lighthouse LLC staff is made up of one staff member from the National Center on Deafness, one from the deaf studies program and one from housing along with two Resident Advisors and two interns.

After doing research online, Stapleton was able to get in touch with the Caribbean Christian Center for the Deaf and set up the trip to visit Knockpatrick, one of CCCD’s three residential schools in Jamaica.

Planning for the trip began last March and the first meeting was held in May. Students enrolled in a three unit class and meetings were held Fridays throughout fall semester.

“The class focused on Jamaican culture, team-building, fundraising, and getting the group ready for the international experience,” Stapleton said. Students had to pay slightly over $900 each to attend the trip.

Joel Hernandez, a senior deaf studies major, said it was well worth the money.

“The kids really opened up to us,” Hernandez said. “The deaf from the United States really wanted to encourage the deaf there to work hard and protest a government which doesn’t provide interpreters for them.”

“Here in the United States it’s so easy compared to other countries,” Hernandez said. “People should experience it themselves and go out and do these kind of trips. Go learn something else, somewhere else.”

“I really wish we had another week to stay, and I hope next year we have a two week trip,”Hernandez said.

Megan Kirchert, a senior deaf studies and psychology major, also got a lot out of the trip.

“I got to see something that I never thought I’d see and something that I wasn’t expecting to see,” Kirchert said.

“It’s great to experience something new,” Kirchert said. “The children seemed really happy. Our group that went, everybody signed and about half of them were deaf so the kids were just very excited to have the direct communication with the team.”

“At the end of the trip the deaf students in our group sat down in a panel form and the older students at the school were able to ask them questions,” Kirchert said. “We explained to them that you can do more after high school.”

The group will be presenting “Jamaica Through Our Eyes” on Jan. 31 from 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. in the NCOD building.

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