It has been an amazing week working for the project “Deaf Reach”. I volunteered in an organization that teach the deaf and mute children mostly from the underprivileged background. The deaf world is a completely different world that needs to be experienced more than learnt about. Although I did not get an opportunity to interact with them much, yet since a classroom was situated next to the office, whenever I stepped out through the back door I had a dazzled look on my face watching in front of me a class going on of over 25 students with Pin Drop Silence.
I was taken onboard to plan out activities for their upcoming Summer Camp. My past volunteer and workshop experiences came out very handy helping me plan different kinds of creative activities including theatre, dance and ice-breaking exercises. However the major inhibition I felt was to modify these exercises and create new ones to meet the needs of the deaf and mute. Sound plays a vital role in my life and its’ difficult to imagine a life without it be it in the form of music or normal conversations. I started off by throwing random questions at the co-mates working in the organization: “how do they introduce themselves or call out a persons’ name”, I asked. The response was: whenever they meet a new person they create a sign for him/her keeping the first alphabet constant and making a sign that is most appropriate to the person’s personality trait. Very interesting !! So whenever you meet a deaf person for the first time be sure you act nice cause your name’s sign will be created keeping your personality trait in mind J
Planning exercises for them was a lot of fun and we as a team delved into many thought provoking discussions sometimes imagining a world where deafness was normal and hearing was not. The word ‘abnormal’ is so commonly used by us to prohibit undesired actions and to frame a section of society as disabled however if one ponders through, it is only a matter of perspective and the majority (whoever it may be) has always endeavoured to legitimatize their actions as norms. The history of deaf is no different than that of other underprivileged sections of world society who had to experience many pains before they could unleash the shackles of their imprisonment. Deaf persons, like the indigenous in America, untouchables in India and women throughout the world, had to face the consequences of being so called ‘abnormal’ until they empowered themselves by introducing their own language, their colleges and universities and associations at the national level in states like the US to lobby for their rights and ensure that suitable laws were passed and implemented. This fight continues today in many countries (including Pakistan) where to date deafness is made fun off and words like ‘dumb’ are associated with stupidity.
Recently most of the workshops I have attended focus a lot on body movements enabling the participants to make use of their body as a tool of expression. In that regard planning theatre exercises for the deaf kids was not too difficult. Mime is quite a challenging task for actors since there is no use of sound and the expressions have to be really loud. However I realized that these children are socially conditioned to use their body to communicate in daily lives hence for them communicating their message via mime is like a natural talent they possess.
All in all, in this limited time I was fortunate to be introduced to the ‘deaf world’ and I am sure the volunteers for the Summer Camp would learn much more from the kids than vice versa.