You Can Help
You can help!
It always takes a village to bring out our best. We need people who believe this world is made a bigger and better place through recognizing and appreciating our differences...That every soul is unique and special.
We have the loving support of a beautiful farm community at Meadow Lark Hearth.
We have a Dream and the Will to create it.
We have Deaf Youth in need of experience.
We can do it but your help makes it better.
We need volunteer interpreters, CODAs, signing siblings, Deaf families...
We need funding support. Contact us for information:
or use the easy "Donate Today" button above.
Thank you for your interest in making the world a better place.
Deaf Youth in Transition...
My teenage years are far behind me--but some things one never forgets. I bet you also can quickly recall the gut wrenching feeling a teenager experiences if required to walk into a room full of people, late. Then perhaps that feeling intensifies exponentially if the teenager were to suddenly realize a bounce dryer sheet clung to their sweatshirt shoulder or toilet paper trailed from their shoe. This could spell the end of civilization as we know it. The feeling that the whole world is staring will immediately have flooded through the teen's being. Gut tightens. Palms and other more obtrusive places break into a sweat. Heart pounds. These days teens know that a snapshot of their embarrassing moment has probably just posted and no doubt gone viral. Remember these feelings?
Now imagine the same situation but add a language barrier to the mix. The teen in this scenario is now surrounded by clusters of people laughing and talking in an unknown language. Instantly the teen is sure they are laughing and talking about him. The teacher says something and the whole class laughs. Three students look up suddenly, raise their hands and run out the door. Feeling befuddled? The teen doesn’t know if he should unpack his books or hide under the desk. Whatever is happening, is it a drill or is it real? This is often the situation for Deaf students in mainstream Hearing settings. Auditory cues Hearing people take for granted and barely notice-- but react to-- are often completely inaccessible to Deaf people. The Deaf student must make many assumptions from only partial information. As teenagers, exquisitely sensitive and vulnerable to rejection as many teens are, Deaf teens can experience devastating feelings of inadequacy, confusion, overwhelm and social isolation.
The first day on a new job can be equally stressful. Many of us would not be brave enough to begin work in a setting where we cannot understand the language and have no idea what is expected of us. Welcome to the everyday experience of Deaf students transitioning into the world of work. Often no one signs. No-one can explain routines let alone the inevitable changes of routines. Everyone is busy. Mimed and gestured communications take too long for fellow workers who are impatient to accomplish their own tasks. The work setting is often designed for Hearing employees. Bells, buzzers, overhead announcements further isolate and exclude the Deaf worker. The Deaf person works very hard to half understand situations from which they glean visual information only. They may make brilliant solutions to the puzzles around them but to the hearing workers they may appear inadequate. Social connections with fellow workers can be extraordinarily difficult to develop because of communication barriers. Acquaintances often remain superficial and kind at best.
The Deaf person, like any person, will bring to the situation not only their own set of challenges but also their unique set of attributes. Too often the tendency is to focus on that which the Deaf person lacks while completely missing the gifts they bring. They may be more visually aware than hearing co-workers which allows them to notice lapses in quality and unusual behaviors. They may have become experts at reading between the lines and notice other employees under stress or exhibiting subtle signs of emotional discord others miss. Because of their isolation, they may think completely outside the box and bring diverse and enlightening perspectives to situations. The value of these gifts may be lost as they go un-conveyed and therefore unnoticed.
Similar to the way young children parallel play this becomes "parallel work" or even "parallel living". The job is done but the Deaf person feels left off the team. And that wonderful synchronous synergy of cooperative effort, brain storming and problem solving is rarely enjoyed.
It is difficult to "fix" a lifetime of the experience described above. However, a smooth entry into the world of work --including developing expectations of understanding and communication and problem solving-- can only improve the outcome. The Deaf person is thus empowered to bring to future arenas skills of interaction and participation-- the skills required to be part of the "team". The goal of "Signs of Summer" is to build conscious strategies for work environments-- strategies which empower Deaf individuals to be seen as whole human beings and to be effective in optimizing utilization of their skills and ultimately be more successful and more rewarded by their contribution in the workplace.
Signs of Summer—A Summer Farm Community/Work Experience for Deaf Youth July 1-31, 2018
Transitioning to the world of work or university can be tough. For Deaf youth that world can be even more difficult to access because of communication challenges and social isolation. “ Signs of Summer” is a summer program designed to give Deaf youth a work experience in community with other Deaf peers on a 500 acre Nonprofit organic family farm in Nebraska. The program is meant to be equivalent to the “Woofing” experience many hearing teenagers enjoy traveling to Europe or New Zealand and working on farms for room and board and the joy of being self sufficient away from home.
We have purposefully designed the opportunity to be of minimal cost. Participants will meet in Denver. Our van will transport them to Meadowlark Hearth Farm in Scottsbluff, Nebraska. (http://www.meadowlarkhearth.org/aboutus.html) They must bring their own sleeping bag, rain clothes, work gloves, toiletries and a willingness to work. They must have their own health insurance in case of emergency. They must be able to communicate in ASL. They must get themselves back home from Denver at the end of the experience. We ask for $100 to cover transportation and weekend activity costs. No-one will be turned away for lack of funds.
The experience will include education and hands on work with plant and soil science, crop management, harvesting, animal care, assisting with harvesting and selling of produce and possibly seed saving, building and food production. No previous experience is required. Participants will camp in tents on the farm. The farm will provide organic food which will often be freshly harvested by the participants themselves. Participants will rotate through the kitchen helping with food preparation along with the rest of the farm community members. Participants will organize classes in ASL for the farm community members and host local Deaf student/visitors on the farm. Participants who are eligible for ESY (extended school year) may receive tutoring during the experience. They will need to bring a description of their needs from their school program. The experience will also qualify for community service hours.
Participants will be instructed and assist with the work of the farm six days a week. Saturdays and Sundays will have some scheduled activities and some time for rest. Late afternoons will be enjoyed by the lake swimming, kayaking and fishing or just relaxing along the shore. The farm is approximately 500 acres and includes a large nature preserve for hiking and exploration. The town of Scottsbluff is easily accessible for activities or occasional shopping. Nearby museums and historical wagon trails and rock formations will also be enjoyed. All participants will have the opportunity to become certified in CPR and First aid and to acquire their lifetime national park pass.
Smoking, drugs and alcohol are strictly prohibited on the farm. Bullying or inappropriate social behaviors are strictly prohibited. Abuse of these restrictions will be grounds for dismissal from the program. We will be actively teaching and modeling respect, cooperation, determination, inclusivity, honesty, trust, gratitude, reverence and joy. An essential goal of the program is to create and nurture a sense of caring community amongst the Deaf participants and also as part of a larger community on the farm. We will become stewards of the animals, the farm, the earth, our community and one another.
The program will be limited to five participants. Minimum age 18 years.
Program dates July 1—31, 2018.