by ROWENA OREJANA
WELLINGTON — Excitement is evident in the bright eyes of 12-year-old Zoe Ferguson. The year 8 Sacred Heart Cathedral College student, and Jemma Matthewson, a 12-year-old Aucklander,
were chosen by Deaf Aotearoa to represent the country in the World Federation of the Deaf Youth Section children’s camp that will be held in Washington, D.C., from August 1 to 8.
In her video, which she uploaded on YouTube, Zoe said she wanted to go to new places, meet people and share her creativity.
Zoe said this trip means more than a chance to be in a camp where everyone is deaf and uses sign language. “It is a chance to go to Gallaudet University. This is the only deaf university in the world. It is an awesome place! I want to meet new friends, learn some new sign
languages, become more confident and become a leader,” she told NZ Catholic in an email.
Her mum, Bridget Ferguson, said Zoe prayed for this to happen. “She applied to Deaf Aotearoa NZ and was chosen along with Jemma. [She is] a determined, hard working, beautiful soul. She is proud of who she is and her bilingual bicultural identity,” Mrs Ferguson said.
It is not the first overseas trip for Zoe. Her family lived in Sydney for two
“I started school there in a cool deaf school called Thomas Pattison School — everyone was deaf and all the teachers, deaf and hearing, could sign fully. When I came back to New Zealand there was no school like that for me to go to, so I have had to be in the mainstream. It is hard work. I can’t wait to be back in a place where everyone is deaf and signs,” she said.
Her school, though, has taken extra efforts to provide her and another deaf student with access to learning. Deaf Aotearoa gave Sacred Heart Cathedral College the New Zealand in Schools Award for 2014, “in recognition of its amazing work providing Zoe with a fully
accessible learning environment using NZ’s third official language”.
Zoe and her family have been fundraising for the past few months as well as applying for grants. “We have been selling crocheted hats, we have had fun nights at deaf clubs in Wellington, Auckland and Christchurch,” she said.
The family is also raising funds through their givealittle page: https://www.givealittle.co.nz/cause/WFDYSChildrenscamp.
Zoe hopes that when she comes back, she will be “more confident and assertive amongst her hearing peers”.
“I want to work with Deaf Aotearoa and the NZ Federation of Deaf Children to get the young deaf people in NZ together in camps and fun days and give other deaf kids more pride in being deaf and using NZ Sign language,” she said.
Mrs Ferguson will also be travelling to the USA with the group and has been coordinating the trip.