KARACHI: For an ‘outsider’ at the Deaf Reach School, the kids communicating through sign language offered a glimpse of how the physically challenged would perceive a world where everyone else could speak and hear. It was a space where only their language mattered and everyone else had to adhere to it.
The Family Educational Service Foundation (FESF), a volunteer organistion run by Maria Paola, provided the kids an opportunity to expand their creativity with ample encouragement for exploration and entertainment-based learning at their summer camp, titled “Creative Caravan”.
The week-long camp was organised from June 18 to 23.
The FESF administers the Deaf Reach Schools not only in Karachi but also in Hyderabad, Sukkur and Lahore. Paolo told The Express Tribune that the annual summer camp offers a chance to children from underprivileged backgrounds to enjoy educational and vocational activities, excursions and summer fun.
Madiha Adnan, a teacher at FESF, was roped in when she visited the school five years ago just to observe how children communicate with each other through sign language. “Since then I have not been able to leave this place,” she says. “I decided to take up teaching as my profession.”
Now in its 14th year, the camp also provides an opportunity for the older students to engage in vocational and craftsmanship activities, while focusing on creative expression and professional skills training.
Chance to interact, chance to learn
Around 35 volunteers, mainly students from different schools and universities, after receiving a week-long training from the FESF, helped the campers in participating and enjoying the activities to their fullest.
“I found out about the summer camp through Facebook and I thought it’d be a good idea to spend a week with them,” says volunteer Ali Mehdi of the City School’s PAF chapter. He, along with another volunteer from the Southshore School for A-level Studies, Emaan Aga, were painting flags of different countries on paper for the children’s performance scheduled for the closing ceremony on June 23. “This experience transforms thoughts and ideas,” shares Agha. “We got to know that life is much more than keeping up with the materialistic world and its desires.”
For Zain Saeed, a student of social sciences at the Lahore University of Management Sciences, the feeling of being remembered by the kids is the best part of the experience. “It means so much to see them happy, identifying you by name and recalling the activities from previous years,” says Saeed, who refused a corporate internship this summer as well as last year to participate. Zaka Bhatty, a media sciences student, had no idea of what he was stepping into but wanted to do something different. He was enthusiastically handling a group of 25 kids for a performance on the poem “You have to be deaf to understand” by Willard J Madsen, a renowned sign language expert and professor of journalism at the Gallaudet University, who himself became deaf at age two.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 22nd, 2012.