SU Junior Works with Deaf Children in Haitian Village
SALISBURY, MD---For many college students, summer is a time to relax, take a few trips to the beach, catch up on Netflix and maybe earn a little extra cash at a part-time job.
For Salisbury University business management and information systems major Darrin Reedy, however, this summer was a time to make a difference in the lives of people he had never met in a country where he never dreamed he would travel.
The junior from Frederick, MD, a Student Business Leader in SU’s Franklin P. Perdue School of Business, spent two and a half weeks in July and August teaching deaf children and assisting residents in the small village of Lévêque, Haiti.
Reedy, whose parents are deaf, was familiar with deaf culture in the U.S. He has attended KODA Camp, an outreach for “Kids Of Deaf Adults” for approximately a decade. The idea for the Haiti trip began there when he and other counselors began considering ways they could assist deaf communities in developing nations.
“We have a passion for deaf people and deaf culture,” he said.
A little online research led them to the Haiti Deaf Academy, a ministry that, among other services, helps enable mission trips for those wishing to support Haiti’s deaf community. Reedy and the others raised at least $3,000 each for the trip through car washes, athletic tournaments and online donations.
“Even a couple weeks before the trip, it didn’t seem like it was actually going to happen,” said Reedy. “It was like, ‘Am I really doing this? Am I really going to Haiti?’”
He was unprepared for what he saw in Lévêque.
“It was a big culture shock,” he said. “I had never seen people living in tarp houses or sheet-metal houses. I had never seen poverty to that extent.”
Soon, however, it became apparent that what the villagers may not have had financially, they made up for in spirit. This was especially evident in the children.
“These kids were the happiest kids I’ve ever seen,” he said. “They were ecstatic 24/7.”
While Reedy enjoyed playing with the children, his favorite activity was educating them. Many teachers in Haiti know only basic, if any, sign language, he said. The presence of those fluent in the language made a difference.
“When we took over, knowing sign language, the kids picked it up immediately,” he said.
He also noted that he and others from KODA Camp communicated better with the children than with the adults in many cases. Most Haitians speak Creole or French, while the trip participants spoke English. However, through similarities between American and Haitian sign language, Reedy and his colleagues were able to interact more easily with the children, who sometimes helped translate words in writing.
One thing that was especially jarring for Reedy was the stigma placed on deafness there.
“In Haiti, being deaf is like a curse. They’re separated from everyone else.”
Reedy helped counsel children in Lévêque who said they were embarrassed by or ashamed of their parents’ inability to hear. The group also aided the village as a whole, painting houses, cleaning schools and donating clothes. Reedy said the experience was transformative for him and his fellow counselors.
For more information call 410-543-6030 or visit the SU website at www.salisbury.edu.