Innovative NZ approach helps deaf people

Representatives of the Deaf Community undertake Seasons for Growth training with a view to offering the programme
to other deaf people for free. Left to right: Lorraine McQuigg, Cheryl Spykerman, Rachel Marr, Barbara Peri, Delia
Ruane, Sandra Gibbons, Judith Mason, Barbara Cunliffe, Sheila Gibbons. Seated: Johanna Brens.

Isolation is one of the biggest barriers that the Deaf Community faces and prevents them from accessing resources that would help them cope with grief and loss. Representatives from the Deaf Community led by Auckland Deaf Community Chaplain Judith Mason and Auckland Deaf Christian Foundation minister Rev. Sandra Gibbons recently trained to be companions in the Seasons for Growth programme to bring to the community the tools that would help deaf people recognise grief and cope with it.

Seasons for Growth is a programme that aims to develop resilience and emotional literacy to promote social and emotional wellbeing.

“I think it’s the first time, a world first, that deaf people are looking at training in this programme and that it will be deaf people running it for other deaf people, “said Rev. Gibbons.

She noted that grief affects every aspect of life. “How we behave, how we feel and what happens to our lives depends on [how we cope with] loss and grief,” said Rev. Gibbons.

“Deaf people within the Deaf Community are just being left holding on to that grief and loss and there’s nowhere to go. We’re hoping that this programme would help this community,” she added.

Mrs Mason said the isolation often meant that the Deaf Community do not have access to programmes offered to hearing people.

“Most of the deaf people out in the community have too many barriers due to the lack of information. They don’t really understand what grief means,” she said.

“It will really be good to promote this programme more to make people aware of what grief is and to make people aware of the fact that it is actually okay to feel that way.”

Rev. Gibbons and Mrs Mason noted deaf people are often overlooked.

“I think it’s because not being able to hear is not something we hearing people can experience. We can experience blindness by shutting your eyes and trying to walk around but we can’t really shut off our hearing,” Rev. Gibbons said.

Mrs Mason said the first day of training was a bit of a shock to them as they had to learn how to open up and recognise their own grief and loss before they could deliver the programme.

Rev. Gibbons praised Seasons for Growth companion Delia Ruane, who “has done a very good job. I can see as I was watching people that there was a lot of information being given that was new information. People are responding very well.”

Mrs Mason said some people who were from Deaf Aotearoa also came to the training. “They [Deaf Aotearoa staff] will talk to their manager and investigate the possibility of funding so that the course can be offered to their clients for free,” she said.

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Rowena Orejana

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