July 21, 2011
I have always strived to work in developing countries – for this reason I came to South Africa to make network and learn lessons through people who are from developing countries and work for them. It has been an amazing few days thus far – meeting the Member of Parliament of Uganda, Alex Nzezi, WFD Western and Central African Countries Programme Trainers Ablevi and Megan, coming into contact with several leading organizations that fund development programs such as Duskin Japan and ABILIS Finland. The people that work hard for enrichment and development in poor countries are to be commended for their drive to see other Deaf people thrive and succeed as much as their developed country counterparts.
Today, I attended Ablevi and Megan Youngs’ Plenary presentation about their WFD-sponsored work in French-speaking countries across Western and Central Africa, namely Gabon, Benin, Cote D’Ivoire, Cameroon, Togo and Guinea to name a few. I couldn’t be any more prouder of Megan – a friend whom I’ve known for years and years – and WFD for what they do in these countries to promote opportunities in education, organization and employment.
I was blessed to be given the opportunity to have two Deaf interpreters for my morning workshops – Vivien Batory and Bo Haardell from Denmark – whom I’ve known for years. They saw that I was without a guide or interpreter for most of the presentations so they offered their time and I thank them profusely for that. They admit to almost-to-no experience interpreting for Deafblind people even in their country – but I have seen that they have this natural instinct for Deafblind interpreting and I can only hope that they continue in the future for Db in their country and elsewhere.
Lindsay Dunn’s presentation struck a nerve – or an understanding – among the audience when he presented the topic of whether the Deaf – in developing countries – are being saved/liberated by people in rich countries with money to spend rather than using their knowledge to empower and utilize their skills towards other Deaf people who lack – especially in African countries. The history of slavery and ethnocentrism was discussed with North America and Europe in mind.
Next, two people representing Japanese associations for the deaf – locally and nationally – presented about their efforts with the Japanese Federation of the Deaf and the Dunskin sponsorship organization of the Deaf. They talked about their work with developing countries in Asia-Pacific that needed leadership training, funding, joint advocacy efforts and resource sharing. They host a leadership conference every year for Asian-Pacific people and surely I grabbed a few applications for Deafblind people I know in Nepal who deserve to go get an valuable education in leadership.
The afternoon was spent in meetings with Dr. Liisa Kappainen, a dear friend and former President of WFD, over Nepal Deafblind Project funding and the need to improve accessibility for Deafblind delegates for future WFD Congress and Conferences; met up with Dawn Jani Birley of H3 Media to talk about my background in Nepal working with a small NGO; rubbed elbows with Kalpana, Bikash, Pooja and Ramesh from Nepal; caught up on news with my dear friend Lindsay Dunn; roamed the conference center til dusk craving for some home-cooked food.
And I got just that, with Bapin Bhattacharyya – my flat mate who happens to be Deafblind as well. He cooked some Indian pasta dish with potatoes – it was so fascinating watching a fully-blind man cook and do his business around the kitchen effortlessly and with ease. I felt something come over me – that ‘knowing’ feeling that I’ll be just fine, being fully blind in a few years and cooking and taking care of myself and others, and being in the company of people who work so hard to achieve equality in developing countries, who share the same desire for a better quality of life.
Passions truly do fulfill lives in a way so unique that not everyone can share every aspect of it, but it does feel good to share a certain kind of passion with someone.