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My First Week at Deaf Open World

Hi! My name is Kathrina DeMaio and am thrilled to introduce myself as Deaf Open World’s Administrative Assistant & Business Development Intern! I am a rising senior at Susquehanna University where I am a Business Administration major, a Spanish minor, and compete on the Women’s Lacrosse Team.

As the Administrative Assistant & Business Development Intern, I am responsible for researching possible grants and funding opportunities as well as corresponding with current and potential partners to strengthen relationships. My role also includes conducting case studies and analyses of existing non-profits in the United States and abroad as well as conducting a systematic review of current organizations working with people with disabilities or Deaf populations.

During my first week with Deaf Open World, I read “The geographies of deaf learners in a special school in Swaziland: A Narrative Inquiry,” which is a dissertation submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for Honeydale Njabuliso Nhleko’s Master of Education degree with a concentration in Social Justice. This dissertation provided me with an abundance of information about the deaf community in Swaziland, which is now referred to as Eswatini, after King Mswati III’s recent declaration. Nhleko’s work focused on the unbelievable daily struggles that these people go through at school and at home, both of where they get hardly any support regarding their disabilities. For example, I found it astonishing that when two parents decide to separate, it is usually because one of them is unable to accept his or her deaf child. Parents and their deaf children also deal with a feeling of separation due to the fact that most parents do not know sign language. As a result, it is very hard for parents to communicate with their children. This is an issue that must be fixed both at home and in the classroom in order to find a permanent solution to the current lack of support for deaf people in Eswatini.

Just as there is a lack of communication in disabled homes, there is a similar situation occurring in schools. The educators who are teaching the deaf children in Eswatini are not formally taught Sign Language before being put in a classroom with these students, making communication extremely difficult. The use of Sign Language is also discouraged in schools which is surprising because of the difficulty that it imposes on the deaf. Overall lack of communication between students and educators, as well as students and their parents and caretakers, is what is holding these children back from progress and eventual success. Sign Language must be used in school and caretakers at home must learn it and be encouraged to use it in order to support these deaf children. Supporting these children at all times will teach them how to better live with their disability and not see it as a detriment or resent it. It is important that they know that the disability that they have does not at all define them or what they are capable of.

I am very excited for this opportunity with Deaf Open World and cannot wait to see what we are able to accomplish over the next few months! I am anxious to see what information I end up finding through my research of current organizations working with people with disabilities or Deaf populations and their potential connection to Deaf Open World’s work in Eswatini. Look out for updates to follow!


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