Our largest project is running the Deaf Refugee Center. We are currently working with refugees from Burma, Viet Nam, Bhutan, Nepal, India and Brazil. At the center we teach the refugees how to have a voice, understand that they are equal to everyone else, teach American Sign Language, reading and writing English, and life skills. We also provide food and hygiene products twice a month, help them find employment and obtain their citizenship.
Our refugees meet once a month for a more formal academic setting. We begin our class with social time so that they can all practice their signing, social skills, and immerse themselves into storytelling as they each describe their unique experiences fleeing their countries, settling in their refugee camp, and finally making it here to the United States. Unfortunately, most of their stories include family deaths, running from bullets, starvation, thirst, beatings, and confrontations with crocodiles.
As marginalized members of society, we become a voice for the refugees who have not learned how to have a voice. We begin by educating the Deaf refugees that they are equal to everyone else in the world and that they are worthy of receiving fair treatment. We also educate their hearing family members, and all of those who come in contact with the refugees: places of employment, their children's school, the hearing community, and the Deaf community.
Obtaining citizenship in the United States is a lengthy process, especially for people who have never been to school and are language deprived. Some are able to take the citizenship test and many are not. Either way, the final approval from the USCIS for citizenship takes several years to accomplish. It is a privilege to become a citizen here and our students prove their loyalty by working hard and completing all the necessary steps required to become a United States of America citizen.
Twice a month we have 8-10 volunteers function as part of a moving assembly line. They pick up food at local food pantries, take them to Grace United Methodist Church in Olathe where they pack up family boxes, load the Deaf International van, and take the food to Deaf refugees in KCK and Olathe. The food is always fresh and bountiful.
We also deliver hygiene products to the Deaf refugees in KCK and Olathe each month. Some of our items are donated by our monthly supporters, and some we receive from Center of Grace in Olathe, who have been partnering with us for 11 years now.