Tuesday, 8 April 2008

Hearing Impaired Women Speak Out About Sexual Abuse in Jamaica

By Dawn Marie Roper
November 22nd, 2007

Kingston, September 28, 2006 (Panos) Life for deaf women is far from peaceful. In fact, deaf women have been identified as being extremely vulnerable to sexual abuse and violence.For deaf women like 43 year old Florence Bailey, vulnerability is a daily part of her life.“Yesterday, I went out to walk. A man called me. He lives near me, so I went into his car. He was driving away with me so I asked him where he is going,” she said while explaining that he knew that she was deaf. “He said he wants to have sex with me. He wanted me to touch his penis while he drove but I told him no, because I am married. He said he heard I had no children and he would give me a baby.”Florence also spoke about her 34 year old deaf friend who she said, was abducted by a route taxi driver in November 2005. Florence said after everybody else got out of the taxi, her friend tried to get out. The driver held on to her bag, locked the door and drove away with her. He took her far away and raped her.“He didn’t want her to look into his face so he turned her around and had rough sex with her,” Florence said. She said her friend went to the doctor and reported it to the police and the man was arrested. But the doctor told her she caught something, but she could not understand what the doctor wrote on the paper he gave her.A similar story is told by thirty-two year old Christine Prince. The mother of three said that when she was about 12 or 13 years old, a bus driver and conductor tried to rape her. They refused to let her off the bus after everybody else had left and drove her near to some train tracks and attacked her. She said she escaped into some bushes and hid until night. She was taken home by a woman who found her wandering in the road. Her mother (who is not deaf) took her to the hospital.A study carried out by the Jamaica Council for Persons with Disabilities (JCPD) recently, revealed that hearing impaired women and girls are exposed to high levels of rape, battery, incest and carnal abuse. They are unable to adequately communicate the abuse that they have suffered, and so become vulnerable to contracting HIV/AIDS. As a result the JCPD recently announced plans for an HIV/AIDS Prevention Programme for Deaf Women.“Many deaf women are raped five, six times and sometimes they are gang-raped,” says Valerie Spence, Administrator of JCPD. She pointed out that deaf women are at the mercy of hearing men who take advantage of them because of their disability, their lack of education and lack of employment. She pointed also out that sexual abuse is also rampant within the deaf community itself.“Deaf culture facilitates serial, multiple and shared relationships. The deaf have relationships across age groups, so a deaf man will have sex with a young girl and age is not an issue. Some deaf adults have sexual relationships with younger persons and children.”This makes them more vulnerable to contracting sexually transmitted diseases. She said HIV among the deaf is a serious concern because they receive little information about it. While information about the disease is easily available to the hearing public, HIV prevention information does not reach the deaf community because it is packaged for the hearing and literate. Many deaf persons are disadvantaged because they received little or no education as children. Many parents of deaf children think it is a waste of money to educate them. The school system also shuts them out as it cannot accommodate the deaf as it does the blind. Many deaf people therefore cannot read printed information about HIV. Ms. Spence pointed out that even when the deaf are aware of HIV, they have misconceptions about it. This makes the problem worse.“So many do not hear about HIV,” Ms. Spence said. “They have not been speaking to people living with HIV and heard their stories. Many deaf persons still see HIV as a hearing person’s disease so they will tell you that only hearing person can get HIV.”While there is no data about HIV among deaf women, Ms. Spence thinks the numbers are high.“Deaf do not like to use condoms. The community is small so it’s easy for disease to spread. Because of the frequency with which they change partners, children born to deaf women are sometimes neglected as paternity is not determined,” she said. “So there may be children who are infected. Not many persons within the deaf community have been tested. They will tell you they don’t have it because they cannot catch it.”Ms. Spence pointed out that the deaf do not trust outsiders and they will not readily discuss their problems with hearing people. Deaf women who are sexually abused by a deaf man will not report the abuser because he is one of them.

The deaf women added that they do not report abuse because the police laugh at them when they turn up to report a sexual assault.“They ask us how we know it is rape,” Prince complained. She said the police and hospital workers do not understand sign language so it is hard to talk to them. Ms. Spence explained that the JCPD had made recommendations to policymakers and met with high ranking Police officials in the past to address the problem of police insensitivity to the deaf. These efforts have not resulted in any change in police behaviour or the public at large.The alternative, according to her, is to empower the deaf women by providing them with the information they need to survive and protect themselves. This is the long term goal of the HIV/AIDS Prevention Programme. The programme will involve a series of workshops and skills building sessions, to teach these women survival skills, self-defense strategies and economic skills to make them less vulnerable to sexual abuse and violence. The programme is funded by The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS).It started off last week (September 12) with about 35 deaf women and girls, mostly from Kingston and Portmore being trained. Most of them were students from the Lister Mair Gilby School for the Deaf and the Caribbean Christian Centre for the Deaf. The deaf women participated in a self-defence class led by Cherry Natural, Poet and Martial Arts Instructor. An HIV positive woman also shared her experience with them. The seminars will continue in May Pen, Mandeville, Montego Bay and Ocho Rios.

Friday, 21 March 2008

A rainy day in Kingston

One weekend a while ago, it rained heavily nonstop all day. This is a video that I took of outside my apartment.

Lister Mair Gilby Sports Day

On Tuesday 18th, Lister Mair Gilby High School for the Deaf hosted a sports day. I spent the day in between working at Fast Track and watching the races. It was most enjoyed by all in attendance and a very hot day!

LMG has three sports houses, yellow, blue and red. The sports day was won by the yellow house.

LMG Principal, Vendeta Souza-McKenzie presenting the best male athlete award.

LMG has a total of 78 Deaf students, it is one of the largest schools for the Deaf in Jamaica.

Visit from Gallaudet students

Last friday eight students from Gallaudet Uni visited Jamaica for a week's holiday. Some DCFs and I met up with them for dinner at Cuddy'z, a Jamaican restaurant. On that night nobody was able to stay still for photos!

Wednesday, 5 March 2008

Going Home To Teach- A Story

Going Home to Teach- By Anthony C. Winkler

In Jamaica, nothing technical was every simple. There was a labyrinthine complexity to virtually every chore. One trail led to another. You started here and ended up there. Sometimes you wondered how you came here when all you had set out to do was to go there and get your radio fixed.

I began to glimpse with Oriental clarity that at the core of my native land, at its very heart, was not parliament, not the governor general, not a pale, dewlapped English Queen, not even the prime minister and his incessant homilies: but one indispensable little man planted by a mischievous providence in a farflung place and endowed with exactly the missing part you desperately needed. No matter where you started from or on what technical errand, sooner or later its successful outcome brought you pleading at the feet of this unlikely goblin.

You wanted your car fixed. It blew its horn every time you turned the steering wheel, and since you customarily travelled on serpentine roads, you were quickly becoming a laughing stock and neighbourhood nuisance. So you drove to Kingston and took the car to a shop. After keeping you waiting in the hot sun for a tiresome interval, the shop mechanic finally poked under its hood and reported that the car needed a certain part which was very scarce. But he knew where one could be had “down de road” and if you wanted to run and fetch it he could fix the problem in a minute.

In your innocence you are gulled by this story, so you get directions and set out “down de road” to find the shop that has the necessary part. Fifteen minutes later “down de road”, you learn from a clerk that the shop indeed has the part, but it is kept in a locked safe, and only the manager has the key. But he’s down de road at a bar having a drink, and if you’d only drive there and tell him what you want, he’d come and get it for you.

So you drive down de blasted road again and find the bar and poke your head through the smoky doorway of a dingy rum hole, where the barmaid points out the man you want sitting on a stool and drinking in a dirty corner.

He did have the part you needed, but unhappily he didn’t have on him the key to the room where the parts were stored, for he’s given his key ring to a boy and sent him down de road to fetch him a clean shirt from his closet- this morning he’d had a accident that made his clothes smell like an old oil drum. He didn’t know why the boy hadn’t gotten back yet, but if I was in a hurry, I could drive down de road to de house and tell the maid there to send the boy back with the key and I’d get the part I needed.


You set out for the house. But it turns out not to be just “down de road”, but up on the edge of a vertiginous cliff tethered to the earth by a winding and perilous marl trail which requires you to use first gear and hug the hillside as you crawl at a snail’s pace. To your left, the abyss yawns hungrily for you as you inch your way up the mountain; to your right, pulpy outcropping spurs of the cliff threaten to claw the paint off your car. You begin to wonder how you got here, what had started this whole quest, then you remember as you negotiate a torturous curve and your horn blares.

The maid appears in the doorway, looking dishevelled and breathless, and you glimpse the miscreant boy timidly peeping over her shoulder as you explain why you are here. A few minutes later the boy shyly appears on the veranda with his fly half-open and babbling nervously that he doesn’t have the key on him because he lent it to a man who lived “down de road” and who needed the pocket-knife attached to the keyring to take a nail out of the foot of a donkey. Rather than pry the knife off the ring and lend it to the man, the boy had given him the whole set of keys. But the man would be back in a moment, or if you were in a hurry, you could drive down de road and tell him to give you the keys and keep the pocket knife.

All right, then, where’s the man?

Down de road. About two chains down de road. Follow de road to the fork, go left, until you came to a house on de side of de road. The man was there. His name was Massah Ezekiah.

Come wid me, you tell the boy, but the maid appears menacingly on the veranda to say tartly dat de boy had unfinished work to do and couldn’t be gallivanting all over de place just now. She has fire in her eye and glares from you to the boy, who is quailing behind her in the doorway.

All right. You’ll go down de road again, even though by now you understand that down de road is never down de road but is either down de gully or up de mountain or through de swamp or around de bog but it is never, ever just down de road and finally this is beginning to dawn feverishly on you as your car lurches and sways and rattles down a rutted and stumpy goat path that could be called a road only in a moment of malarial delirium.

But you soon come to the only house by the side of de road, and its appearance is so exact and expected that your spirits soar and you finally feel that you’re getting someplace. A bad dog comes out to greet you, baring its teeth wickedly and snarling, so you remain in the car until a toothless woman comes clopping out of the house wearing ill-fitted slippers.

Yes, Massah Ezekiah was just here, but he has gone into de bush for a minute to do a thing. If you just followed dat footpath over dere, you’d soon find him down de road in a clearing.

Would you please hold de dog while I get Massah Ezekiah, you beg the woman, who exposes her naked gums in a ghastly smile and assures you that the dog won’t bite, him just love to show stranger him pretty teeth.

Nevertheless, you get a little fussy about it and insist and she reluctantly grabs de dog by the scruff of the neck and holds him while you clamber out of the car and set out to follow the trail into the bush.

So you follow de trail and it leads through a tropical jungle where the thicket snags you as you pass, macca bush pricks at your shoes and socks, and an occasional mongoose scurries across the path and burrows into the undergrowth.

Massah Ezekiah! You bawl forlornly, looking often over your shoulder to be sure that the Hound of the Baskervilles isn’t hurtling murderously after you.

Massah Ezekiah, sah!
Who dat call me?
Thank God! A voice.
Massah Ezekiah, sah!
Who dat?
Is me, sah, Massah Winkler. Missah Brown send me for him boy who have him key. But de boy say him lend you de key chain because it have a pocket-knife.
Oh you need de key?
Yes, sah. We need de key to buy a part to carry to me mechanic to fix me car so de horn won’t blow when me turn a corner.
Oh, is so it go? I see. Well, I soon done wid de donkey. Me just have to take this macca outta me donkey foot. See how de macca stick him inna de hoof. Me trying de dig it out wid de knife. Hold up, dere, Rupert! Stand still!
Oh, you donkey name Rupert?
Yes, sah. Him name dat ever de day him born. Me name all me animal dem. Just like Adam and Eve do inna de bible. Me soon done. Sit down in de shade and catch you breath, den we go back to de house.
Lawd, sah, me glad find you, for me ‘fraid of you bad dog.
Him bad for true. Him bite a man last month and nearly eat off him foot.
True, sah? But how come de woman say him don’t bite?
She just jealous cause him have teeth and she don’t have none. You never notice dat when a woman only have gum in her mouth she always love to keep dog dat have plenty teeth?
No, sah, me never notice dat.
But so it go, me son.
I see, sah.

You laugh, but this is no joke. So you sit in de shade near the man with de donkey in the bush, the one on whom all technical mercies in Jamaica depends, the indispensable one for whom all roads eventually lead, and you wait while he works at digging a macca stick out of Rupert’s hoof with the pocket-knife that is fastened to the bunch of keys that you need to get the part the mechanic wants to fix your horn so it won’t blow when you take a corner.

Saturday, 23 February 2008

The story of May Pen

I've been travelling a fair bit around the Island for the last month for work. Most towns I visit, the devastation from hurricanes are visible, I don't even need to ask someone about what had happened I just automatically know from the appearance of the devastation.

Two weeks ago when I visited May Pen, I discovered an intriguing story. May Pen is of a moderate sized town about two hours north west of Kingston. This story centrals on May Pen School for the Deaf which was the purpose of my visit to the town. Last October, a hurricane came around, everyone scattered, the school had survived the impact but the May Pen town was badly hit. The school consisted of three buildings, one of the building had it's electricity cut off by the hurricane. After the hurricane had gone, some people from the May Pen community took it upon themselves to break inside the unpowered building forcing the security guard to resign out of safety concerns. They looted the building, took away resources meant for educating Deaf children.

There's reportedly some people still hiding in the building, the Principal refuses to send anyone inside. They are too scared, the building is now off limits to teachers and students. To solve the problem of providing a classroom for students, the principal moved them into the first and second buildings and thus, students are learning in an inadequate and overcrowded environment.

With some Deaf Teacher Assistants at May Pen

As seeing that May Pen is a school owned by Jamaica Association for the Deaf, they are currently trying to solve the situation and the first step is getting the electricity back. The costs run well into the JA$24 million which no one seems to have.

The hurricane season is from May to November, Jamaica often gets hit around October. It is now almost March, five months to the last devastating hurricane and the school still has not been fixed. I can imagine the Jamaicans getting tired of having to re do and fix damages caused by hurricanes year after year. I wonder what this year's season will bring?

Thursday, 7 February 2008

New Menu for KFC?

On my first night in Kingston with a host family, I was served chicken feet stew with rice and beans for dinner. Before you guys start thinking that I actually ate that, there's NO WAY that I would have attempted! Maybe KFCs here in Jamaica serve this on their menu? I will need to find out! But for the meanwhile, ENJOY!

Debbie xx
P.S. The Jamaicans have now upgraded to pig's feet, which possible global chain restaurant would you think that has pig's feet on their menu?

Deaf Ears but Not Stupid

I found the school motto of Caribbean Christian Centre for the Deaf (CCCD) Mandeville to be very funny!

"Deaf Ears but Hearing Hearts"

I reckon having Deaf Ears and Deaf Hearts are good enough, it'd demonstrate that we are proud to be Deaf.

I've made up my own motto:

"Deaf Ears but Not Stupid"

If you happen to have transpired some tongue in the cheek motto you'd like to share, leave a comment!!

Debbie xx

Friday, 1 February 2008

So so behind

I am so behind with updating my blog, the last travel entry was when we had arrived at Madrid. I'll write up a VERY short summary of where we went after that.

We stayed in Madrid for one week and then moved onto Barcelona where we saw many amazing sights, I can officially say that Barcelona is one of my favourite places to visit. I most especially enjoyed visitng La Sagradia Familia, I spent an hour outside just staring, trying to absorp the building in but there were so many details. I remember thinking on that day, how was I able to remember every art detail of that building? Was that Gaudi's purpose, to make people forget the exact details of La Sagrada? We visited more of Gaudi's work, La Pedrera and Park Guell. We also explored a museum on Picasso's artworks. Ben and I sneaked a day to visit the Dali Theatre and Museum in Figueres, about two hours north of Madrid. Dali's artwork is pretty amazing!

After a week in Barcelona, we went to Girona for the day before catching our flight back to London. Once I returned to London, it was back to try and set up a new life and finding a proper job. Sarah and Bugge left for Australia via Hong Kong where they texted me that they had bought a new laptop. A month later, Melissa left for Hong Kong, she sent me an email saying that she also got a new laptop!! What is it with HK and laptops?! Melissa continued her travels to Cambodia and Thailand before heading for Melbourne.

I spent most of my time in London bludging around and trying to find a job, but was not very successful. One weekend I decided to travel to Edinburgh with Sheepy, a friend from Australia. We had a blast walking the royal mile, spending time with Paula and Simon and I ended up having a drinking competition with Deaf Scotsmen which was not a good idea! Their idea of a good drink evolves around whisky and more whiskies. The next day Sheepy and I caught a train back to London and I was so sick.

In the duration of my stay in London, I worked various jobs but they were all 'under the table' work, I once coached the deaf netball team, worked as a babysitter, walked around from 8am till 3pm posting blasted leaflets at 1,000 houses in Leyton, spent a night's skit as a nightclub promoter for the 'Salvador and Amanda' nightclub in Leicester Square. Then I finally got more promising work as a property inventory clerk for a real estate company which I enjoyed. I also did some volunteering work for Deafplus at Deptford.

I also did more travelling after Spain, I went to Switzerland for the Zurich European Union of the Deaf Youth General Assembly. My focus was not at the EUDY GA but to see Zurich, it's absolutely a beautiful place but so so expensive! I hired a bike and asked around if I was able to ride around Lake Zurichsee in one day, and most laughed at me, said it'd take at least two days. I calculated from the length of the lake and the speed I'd be able to ride a bike, it'd take me a good 30 hours to ride around the lake without a break. I ended up only riding on one side in the morning and then returning in the afternoon. One day, I walked onto the main street to find an eco friendly festival happening and I got wrapped up in the middle of it. To emphasis how eco friendly Switzerland is, they released green balloons and had demonstrations on how to cut emissions etc. It was fun and naturally, there were plenty of delicious aroma wafting around.

A week after Zurich I flew to Rome to meet Luke and spent a week catching up with him in our beloved Auslan and going loose in the ancient city of Rome! We covered large distances by foot each day and at evening, we'd trudge slowly back to our hostel exhausted and complaining that we had walked too much, but then we'd do it all over again the next day because we were so excited to be in Rome. Luke and I kept a tally of numbers of when we tripped over rough and uneven footpaths, I think my tally was 7 and Luke's at a clumsy 13!

In Rome, on our first day, we made a beeline for the Vatican museum and was gobsmacked at how huge and the precise painting was inside the Sistine Chapel! On my map of the museum, it said that there were a collection of church based library books, it was very easy to persuade Luke that we should visit the library but to our disappointed, the books was lined up in locked shelves in the hallway leading to Sistine Chapel. Where's the fun of looking through mysterious and ancient theological books that might hold sacred secrets. I know! I shouldn't believe too much in The Da Vinci Code! We spent the whole afternoon in Vatican itself and climbed up St. Peter's Basilica and then going underground to visit the Popes tombs. John Paul's (the recent one) tomb was the only one new and shiny compared with the other tombs. In the coming days after visiting Vatican City, Luke and I trawled the whole of Rome, popping in almost every church because in our guide book the church was said to possess some art work of Bernini's or Michelangelo's! We also visited well known squares, my favourite square is where the Pantheon is. We also visited the Colosseum, I tried to imagine Gladiators, to be more specific, Russell Crowe fighting on the stage, but it was difficult because there weren't much of the stadium left. Luke and I also visited the Trevi fountain, and wished that we'll visit Rome again!

At the end of the week, Luke moved onto Florence to continue his Italian escapade, I returned to London. I went back to Scotland again for the weekend, but this time with Melissa C and Marlene. I went down the same path with the girls and discovered some more of Edinburgh that I had missed on the previous visit. It is a beautiful and old old city! Sometime early November, I participated in the Deaf netball tournament in Camden Town, I played with the London Deaf Team and we had a lot of fun, unfortunately we did not win.

I applied for a job in Jamaica to work with Deaf adults and was successful in getting the post. I hastingly left London, the actual story is.... I had waited until Monday to find out the next available flight back to Australia, so I could recover from the cold British weather, eat 'normal' meals, catch up with my family before I moved onto another foreign country. The man at China Eastern Airlines told me that the next available flight was either tonight (in 5 hours time) or on 29th December and I had been hoping to be able to start working in Jamaica in mid December. I had no choice but to opt for the 'tonight' flight. I rushed home, threw in all my meagre possessions in bags and then organised everything at a speed so dizzingly that my last minutes in London was a blur. I made the flight in time and was able to finally relax on the long flight to Shanghai and then changed for Melbourne.

I was only in Melbourne under a week, but it was bliss! It felt so comfortable and natural to be back home. Dad cooked a celebratory barbeque for me, it never had tasted so good! I had to book tickets to Kingston, Jamaica at the last minute, actually, I booked two days before I left Melbourne and arrived in Kingston on 12th December.

And so here I am! In Kingston, Jamaica. I've been here nearly two months now but it has been a very interesting experience! I'll write a post about Jamaica sometime soon!

I swallowed a fly....

Last night when I was walking home, I choked upon swallowing a poor fly. After my choking subsided and attemption to spit the fly out failed miserably, I started to think about the new experiences the fly will encounter in my acidic stomach. I suddenly had a new perspective on life! My previous blog was too dark and the text was too small, I decided to change the format and I hope it will help cheer you up to some level unlike the poor fate of the fly.