The International Christian Centers for the Deaf (ICCD) partnered with Marsh Harbour Gospel Chapel and Agape Christian School to offer a Sign Language Camp at Grace Gym from July 3 to July 7.
According to Kayla Rohr, ICCD Missionary-Bahamas Coordinator and Sign Language Interpreter, three volunteers from the United States, and seven volunteers from the Abundant Life Bible Church in New Providence travelled to Abaco assist with the camp.
The main goal of the camp was to reach the deaf and hearing community to learn sign language and to share the Gospel. The camp was offered to campers eight years old to adult at a cost of $30 for hearing persons and free to deaf campers with free evening sessions offered. The fee included lunch and sign language materials.
Throughout the week, 22 campers were engaged in Bible lessons, songs and activities that incorporated sign language. Activities included: basketball, volleyball, kickball, nature walk, water balloons, a scavenger hunt and egg drop. The sign language games were comprised of games called telephone, fruit basket, speed dating, Around the World, I Spy and Jeopardy.
The campers received a treat on July 4 when Pastor David Cartwright played his piano accordion for them. Pastor Cartwright shared how the instrument has travelled to several Bahamian islands over the past 40 plus years and still remains in good condition.
Among the campers, there were three who were deaf, and one person from Abaco who is hard of hearing.
Rohr said all of the activities and storytelling exercises were built on the theme – “Build It Strong” – with a Scripture reference to Matthew 7:24, and a theme song of The Wise Man Built His House Upon the Rock. Each day, the campers learned new vocabulary words pertaining to the days of the week, colours and common church and school-related words to sign.
On the first day, the campers made prayer stones to remember others in prayer. On the back of the stones, they were asked to write something or someone they would like to remember in prayer.
“One of the campers wrote – the deaf,” Rohr shared. “I was so touched because that’s the whole purpose of the camp – to find ways to reach the deaf and communicate with them.”
Another camper was able to sign to a deaf person working in one of the local grocery stores, which Rohr said is a sign of confidence that the campers are able to communicate and interact with others.
The campers were also separated into Level 1 & 2 learners based on those who had attended the camp last year at Camp Abaco and those who were first-time learners.
In the evening classes, the adults were engaged in a speed dating activity to assist them with learning words to sign. Some of the campers from the day classes also joined the evening classes with the adults. Rohr said that while there some of the parents expressed that they would like to see ongoing sign language classes held.
Rohr said that she was impressed to see how quickly the campers learned sign language and how they are already able to put it to good use. She was fortunate to attend four years of college to become more skilled at sign language, but she reasoned that if there was some way for the participants to have ongoing teaching in sign language they would become very fluent in sign language.
“The University of The Bahamas (UB) does have one professor who offers a sign language class but that’s it, so there is a need right there for either an interpreting program or an interpreting agency that can train interpreters or more sign language classes because the deaf doneed interpreters,” Rohr observed. “There are some that just graduated from high school; if they wanted to go to college here they would have to look hard to find an interpreter who would be willing to interpret. If you can’t find one here, you have the option of going away, but that can be very expensive.”
During their activity session, the campers made salvation bracelets last week Thursday to give to people they know. She expressed her joy in seeing that the deaf in The Bahamas can feel more included, and that God’s love is being shared with them as they make new friends.
“The greatest benefit for the campers is that they get to learn another language, they see the needs of the deaf, and they share the Gospel with them,” Rohr reflected.
A closing program was held on the final day to demonstrate what the campers had learned throughout the week. Six awards in total were distributed with four given to those who were most improved and two to “Campers of the Week,” who excelled in all areas of Sign Language Camp and who were also good helpers. Those who want to receive certificates of completion can e-mail Rohr at firstname.lastname@example.org to request one.
Rohr concluded her remarks by acknowledging Cecile Albury for the use of Agape Christian School’s Grace Gym, and the members of Marsh Harbour Gospel Chapel and Andrea of New Vision Ministries for the hospitality, living accommodations, transportation and all assistance rendered to them during their stay.
Altogether, four Sign Language Camps were held in The Bahamas: Eleuthera, Abaco, New Providence and Grand Bahama. In November, an Abundant Life Deaf Awareness Week will be held in New Providence.
The International Christian Centers for the Deaf (ICCD) is a ministry focused on the deaf throughout the world. Kayla Rohr and Talitha Di Palma previously visited Abaco with LaSasha Williams, and discovered that there were some deaf residents with limited language capacity.
In a monthly e-mail to supporters of the deaf ministry, Rohr wrote that: “It is our hope that after teaching them some sign language they will be able to communicate and learn about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We also understand that we need to teach hearing people sign language, so that the deaf community will be able to be understood and have fellowship with other people and believers in Christ.”
For those interested in supporting ICCD’s Deaf Ministry to reach the Deaf for Christ, you can mail a cheque to the ICCD Office with “Kayla” in the Memo Line. The address is ICCD -P.O. Box: 540 Cloverdale, VA 24077, or for more information, visit their Web site at: www.iccd.net.