I Am UNICEF Mission with EDeaf for Every Child
Overcoming Barriers for a Fair Chance in Education for Children Who Are Deaf
If limitations in life are like a wall – have you ever faced a wall that seemed impossible to overcome? What would you do with a wall impossibly high? Would you: (a) Keep scaling the wall; (b) Looking for a ladder; or (c) Turn away and give up?
As you consider your answer, here is the approach of Yuttakrit Chalermchai (Nutt) and Jarunee Jarasruangchai (Waew), co-founders of EDeaf (Education for the Deaf): tear down the wall and build a space for learning and development opportunities for all.
Our society seems to have a wall separating people with hearing disabilities. Many would believe that they cannot exchange and learn together with their hearing peers. Yet, Nutt and Waew believe otherwise. They are stepping up to tear down all obstacles to education, including curriculums, teaching skills and learning materials that are not designed for children with hearing impairments, as well as tackling children’s lingering self-doubt.
EDeaf was created with the hearts and minds of staff and volunteers to build a learning space and education model designed for the needs of children with hearing impairments. It aims to ensure equal learning opportunities and advocate in the long term for inclusive education policies for every child. Regardless of who they are or where they come from, a child is a child, and their lives hold endless possibilities.
“We believe that everyone is equal – with or without hearing ability, they are the same. Those without hearing are just like us. They speak their own language, which is unique. People tend to say that it takes one who knows sign language to teach,” Nutt recalled the beginning of his work. “So we started from scratch! We adopted the idea of being an exchange student moving to another country and learning a new language – sign language – and set up a shared learning space where everyone could learn a new culture. Although we don’t speak each other’s language, we can still find a way to communicate,” Nutt said.
Waew shares the same sentiment, “I’m one of the team members who doesn’t know sign language, but I can still work with deaf children. We only need to know how to communicate with each other, keeping in mind how children may receive, process and respond to our communication.”
Children can learn together: Tearing down the wall – from idea to action
On a breezy day at Don Bosco School, birds chirp and broad smiles flash on the faces of children with hearing impairments and volunteers alike. In the classroom, the volunteers can be found conversing with the children, and every desk is equipped with pencils and paper to aid their interaction through writing and drawing. Today, a new learning space is formed, with children teaching volunteers sign language and volunteers teaching them creative life skills such as cooking, design, photography, video editing, dance and performance. The classroom is a scene of happiness and joyful learning. The learning sessions are carefully designed based on children’s needs. Like UNICEF, EDeaf also works closely with the Ministry of Education, experts on child and community development and school staff. Feedback is collected regularly to adjust the teaching methods to suit the children’s learning needs as well as match the development needs of volunteers.
It has been three years since EDeaf began its journey advocating for inclusive education policies and designing learning approaches suitable for the needs of children with hearing impairments. This year, EDeaf started collaboration with UNICEF’s volunteering programme, I Am UNICEF, to join hands towards the long-term goal of promoting equal opportunities for every child. Through UNICEF’s platforms, more people will be able to understand children with hearing impairments and volunteer for EDeaf to help these children.
Nutt and Waew reflected that they feel they have demonstrated without a doubt to their community that children with hearing impairments can learn together with other children and that everyone also has a lot to learn from these children in this sharing and learning space. Nutt envisions that one day they would step up and inspire others despite the fact that they are not able to hear.
“Although there were obstacles that could have dampened our hopes, we never gave in because we understood that there remain barriers preventing these children from realizing their potential. Those who want to make a difference can start small and move up from joining to leading, and their actions can help move the needle, making a structural impact over time,” Nutt concluded.
Likewise, Waew always feels happiness every time she sees a growing sense of active citizenship in children. “I have never believed that the future of children is only in the hands of adults. On the contrary, our life is in our hands, not others. Importantly, every child can make a difference, regardless of the scale. So if you feel you want to do something, just do it,” Waew told us with determination.
And you too can make a difference. Facing that high wall, are you willing to overcome it?