DCH Team Returns From Jamaica
In early October a Deaf Child Hope team went to Jamaica on a week-long mission trip. While we have one partner in Jamaica, they have three school campuses and a Deaf Village. The team primarily lived, ate, and socialized at one campus that was located inland in the mountain regions of Jamaica. They also got to partake in day trips to visit the other three and every experience was eye-opening and heart-touching.
The school campus at which the team spent most of their time, also serves as a part-time home to most of its students. The school is residential and is set up to take care of the forty-some students who attend. They have dorm parents who are with them during the evenings, mornings, and weekends when they are not in school. The kitchen staff is absolutely amazing. Feeding all of the children three meals a day plus snacks AND feeding all of the teachers, campus staff and workers, visitors, missions groups, and even family members, when needed. What was also very impressive was how all of the children worked together with the adults to do their part. They are with each other almost constantly for meals, sleeping, playing, sports, church, and school.. to the visiting group it seemed very family-like. The older children look after the younger children. There are natural leaders amongst the children who make sure everyone has what they need, isn’t left out, and is comforted when sad or upset.
Jamaican Sign Language or JSL, is fairly similar to American Sign Language (ASL). So for those on the trip who knew some ASL, this is one of our DCH partners where communicating can happen a little more fluidly. A common assumption is that sign language is universal, but it isn’t. Just like any language, it originated in a country or region at a certain point in history, perhaps with the influence of another country or language, and has continued to evolve in that location, but the sign language is usually specific to that country or region. Many countries, including America, have more than one signed language. Another common misconception is the language spoken in Jamaica is English. In fact, Patwa or Patois is a native creole language with English roots and a West African influence.
The campus has a working farm that they use to feed the deaf children and staff but is also used as a source of revenue. They sell piglets, chickens, chicken eggs, milk, and fresh produce to help bring in income to support the many needs of a residential school. The students attend church on campus each Sunday which is led by a pastor who is deaf and specifically works with the school on more than one campus. The children also have worship time almost daily, also all in sign. As a departing gift to the team, a group of students, who perform in JSL to music, performed a few different songs for us. Watching a deaf person or a deaf group sign in accompaniment to music is one of the most beautiful and touching things you can see. This was such a meaningful gift to the group and brought a flood of mixed emotions. It was hard to say goodbye. Until next time, Jamaica!