Volunteering with Deaf (2019)

IMAGE DESCRIPTION: A wefie; around me are Donny, Grace, Jiahui, Janika and Xueting (from left to right) posing together on the school stage.

We’re grateful to Raffles Community Advocates for putting in efforts to create awareness about Deafness in different ways, and to experience working with Deaf. Some students were assigned to learn basic Sign Language (obviously SEE2) from TOUCH Silent Club, in order to communicate, especially with Donny and me. There was another group of students who learnt to song-sign for the SPARK Concert that happened last two weeks. I was to play the duet with Janika for the first time; this gave her another experience.

You might be wondering how you could volunteer with Deaf. It may be slightly different from volunteering FOR Deaf. This time, it looks more at interacting with Deaf.

After contacting the network of volunteers on my side, most of them couldn’t help us because of their studies, work and family commitments. However, I managed to get Grace and Jiahui to help us out, especially Donny. He needs visual cues to support his solo dance, and his part in our duet performance.

Grace had no knowledge about deafness and Sign Language. But sign language videos were sent to her two weeks before the concert. She had to learn numbers in Sign Language, that were needed for his dance solo. It was actually easy to learn numbers on the spot. On his last dance practice, Grace, Donny and I met for the first time. Donny and Grace worked together with each other for some time. This was to help them become familiar with the dance routine, as well as his challenges.

Jiahui is currently learning Sign Language from Deaf and interacting with deaf people for some time. Her signing skills are at the beginner’s level, and she is learning basic sign linguistics from ExtraOrdinary Horizons. Donny chose the True Colours song, based on how much he hears at his comfortable level. I’m very familiar with the song arrangement in Deaf way. I recorded videos for Donny and Jiahui to practice at their own pace.

I have asked Grace and Jiahui to share their experiences here. Grace sent me in her artistic style via WhatsApp and this said,
“You with the sad eyes, don’t be discouraged
Oh I realize, it’s hard to take courage, in a world full of people
You can lose sight of it all, the darkness inside you can make you feel so small.
To the deaf community: I pray you will one day hear clearly the music all around you – till then, I will listen to your stories;
When you speak with your inner strength and dance to a different beat from the world. You guys are so beautiful. You music flows from your heart. Thank you for that <3″

Next, Jiahui sent me the WhatsApp message, and it said, “Lily and Donny’s performances were beautiful and heartfelt, and it was a pleasure to work with them and witness their dedication and passion. Off stage, they were also fun partners to hang out with, and patient teachers – refining the cues with us and explaining signs we did not understand. Would love join them again!”

Based on my experiences when working with volunteers, I still feel that you should get to know and understand Deafness, its Community, Culture and Language better. You will realise that it is different from what you usually think about it. It will be better for you to learn at least Sign Language to communicate with Deaf.

We have our workshops and courses that are conducted by Deaf. Let’s check us out at http://www.eohorizons.com! Thank you for reading my entry.

DISCLAIMER: The author of the above article is the director and founder of ExtraOrdinary Horizons. All opinions expressed herein are thus the personal views of contributing individual authors. They are not indicative of any endorsement, political or otherwise, or lack thereof, either on the part of the organisation.

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