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September 27, 2012 05:07 PM

Mission Trip Member Connects With Deaf Students

Knockpatrick, Jamaica

Of the 15 team members on a service trip to Jamaica, one of them is a deaf woman from Sioux Falls.

The team has been giving deaf kids shoes after washing their feet.  The trip has been an eye opener in multiple ways for the team's lone deaf member.

As a bulk of the Dispatch Project service team from South Dakota has needed an interpreter to talk while serving in Jamaica, Tania March hasn't.

"I'm very, very happy that I've been able to communicate with them, especially with all of the children," March said.

The sign here is very similar to that used in America. March has learned some local signs throughout the trip. Still, unlike most of the team members, she's been able to communicate fluently from day one.  But she did learn a lot about the difference between deaf culture here in Jamaica and in the States.

"I asked all of the kids, 'What do you want to be when you grow up?' And most of them would say, 'I don't know. I have no idea; I have no clue,'" March said.

Eteal Craib is a teacher at a deaf school in the Jamaican city of Knockpatrick. She wants to see more opportunities for the deaf in her country.

"Well really, it's pretty limited," Craib said.

She says she's noticed many people having the perception that deaf people can't do a lot of things. In fact, they've only recently been allowed to drive in Jamaica. But at the same time, she's optimistic that perception of the deaf is changing and she's trying to develop leadership skills in her students.

She's observed opportunities the deaf have in America and is hopeful she'll see more of that in her country too.

"I really feel that in my gut that can happen.  That people can look at deaf people and not have the attitude that they had before," Craib said. "Our key is to have that leadership and to pass it down through the generations."

As an observer just coming in for a week, March echoes that.

"I just hope they get into leadership. I think that's the most important thing," March said.

Because through her relatively easy time communicating with these kids, March says she's noticed a lot of potential there.

The team will drive to Jamaica's capital Friday morning and distribute shoes to kids there before flying back to the States Saturday.

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