Day 5 Ghana 2012 Continued: Everything Has a Name

January 18, 2012 Continued…
After the Signing Time posters were all divvied up, I slipped out and caught up with the teacher who was left with none of the supplies. “Listen,” I said, “don’t lose heart!” I told her to watch for Lucy in Signing Time. “Yes, I have two special kids. Carissa and Pablo have two special ones as well. We are all in your classroom for a reason. It’s more than where our hearts are, it’s our daily lives.”

I promised to send what she needs with the next group of Signs of Hope volunteers in May. Then I found Curry and told him that we needed glue, markers, and white paper. (The teachers didn’t have these basic things in their classes.) Curry went to town to get the supplies, while everyone else was helping in Special Ed. I popped my head into another class and offered to help. The teacher said, “Yes, please teach this lesson on cultural diversity and religion.” (GULP!) She handed me the manual and a piece of chalk and she took her seat at her desk. (Double GULP!) I hope you are laughing. I wasn’t.

It turned out to be a lesson in cultural diversity and religion for me too- and before you go to your automatic “file” about we should all know about religion let’s remember that “we aren’t in Kansas anymore.” It’s one thing to teach the lesson and another to teach it in Ghanaian Sign Language.

The Muslims call Him _________. (Allah) <---that one I knew, but before you Google Search the next ones, remember that I had NO internet access. So, TRY to fill in the following blanks (and sign it if you dare). The Ewes call Him _________. The Gas call Him __________. In our language we call Him _________. (Clearly no separation of church and state.) Well, I did it, and let’s say I was sweating bullets because it was noon and 90 degrees in the shade. Yeah… that’s why I was sweating.

The bell rang for break and snack time, literally a hand-held bell. Curry returned with the white paper, markers, and glue. We jokingly asked if he had just gone to the nearest Lakeshore Learning Center or if it was Utah Idaho Supply. We found scissors and went to work labeling the Special Ed. classroom, just as Aaron and I had labeled our first apartment when Leah was a toddler.

By the time snack break was finished the room was thoroughly labeled and I was ready to move on to the next room to do the same thing there. I figured our Team could give the students the signs, context, etc., for what had just happened to their classroom. Curry stopped me and said, “Rachel, will you now give this language to the kids?” About a zillion things went through my head like, “Dude, some of these kids didn’t know how to fingerspell their own names yesterday, they can now because of the Team, but…” I stopped and wondered what I was resisting. Would you believe I STRESS about being put on the spot? I thought about the conversation with the staff just a few hours earlier and saw it, I knew what to do and what to say- “Put your money where your mouth is Rachel Coleman,” I thought, “word, sign, concept/object. GO!”

I began signing, “what did we do?” I swept my hands towards the labels.
“What do these mean? Hmm, I wonder! My name is R-A-C-H-E-L. My name sign is ‘R’+smile.” (signing my name sign)

I came up to a boy and signed, “What’s your name?” Thankfully every shirt is labeled with the child’s name. Since he was “new” he was trying to remember how to fingerspell his name, so I helped him, we fingerspelled, “I-S-H-M-A-E-L” then I asked him, “name sign?” He showed me his name sign. Then I repeated it, telling him, “Your name I-S-H-M-A-E-L and your name sign is ‘signing name sign.’ You have a name and a sign!”
I went to the next child and signed, “what’s your name?” He fingerspelled “J-A-C-O-B” and he showed me his name sign. I smiled and responded, “you have a name and a sign too!”

Then I went to where we had glued a label to the wall and signed, “This is W-A-L-L” and then I signed wall. “It has a name and a sign too!” I then showed them all of the walls in the room, and that they all were labeled “wall”.

I moved on to the windows, the buckets, the bowl, the desks, the chairs, the door, the cupboard, the lights, the blackboard, and the fan. I showed them each label (the written word) and then we fingerspelled each word together, and then I taught them the sign. “Everything has name and a sign!” The students understood.

Ok, it was exhilarating! I was so excited that I was almost frantic. I asked the students to stand up and find the names and the signs. They naturally broke up into groups and began searching around their class. It was awesome!

…and here is my all time favorite picture from the day:)

Jen and I moved on and began labeling the next classroom. We kept at it until the bell rung for lunch. Then we gathered our group and started to walk back to the Courtyard Hotel. Carissa, who has a tough time complimenting me, said “Rachel, that was genius! We were trying to figure our how to connect the labels, but ‘you have a name and a sign, and so does everything else’ it was genius!”
Genius or not, it worked. Ok, I’ll go with “genius” 😉

When you consider the ground that we have covered in the last three days, this trip has already been worth it.

Some of our Team dropped off fabric to Emilia, the school seamstress and sewing teacher. She is making wrap-skirts for Jen, Ronai, Leah and Ellie. We also visited the new “L’Oreal Hair Academy” that is now here on the campus and set up hair appointments for tomorrow morning for me and for Pablo. It’s a training school for the students.

We had lunch and set out for Aburi.

Aburi

Joyce, who works at the hotel, came with us. Carissa, Aaron, Joyce, and I got in one taxi and went to Joyce’s seamstress at Modern Fashions. Carissa and I picked out dress patterns and got measured. We met up with the others at the wood district, where we bought, bartered, laughed and said “hello” to Alfred, and another artist who has done a lot of custom work for Curry, named Sammy.

Aburi Wood District

We spent a few hours browsing. I picked up a few things that I will sell for the Signing Time Foundation when I get home.

I bought this necklace for myself and I bought a second one for bidders on Ebay

We are still about $4,300 shy of covering ALL of the costs of the trip and the service project. We have raised enough to pay for the students sponsored by Signs of Hope and we have paid for their supplies.

We returned to the hotel for dinner and for a presentation by the past president of the Ghana National Association of the Deaf. The power was out before dinner, so he almost rescheduled his presentation. The power came back on just in time. The presentation was great. He shared all about being a deaf individual in Ghana and told us that in 2006 Ghana passed a Disability Act. He also told us that there are only 24 interpreters in all of Ghana. There is only one high school for the deaf in Ghana and it is the one that is right here in Mampong. When we were here four years ago there were 150 students who had tested into the deaf high school. There are now over 300 students attending the deaf high school. This is such great news, it’s proof that teachers who can sign, are reaching the students who are deaf. Progress!

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About Rachel Coleman

The opinions and late night musings published on this blog are Rachel de Azevedo Coleman's alone, and are not ever intended to represent the opinions and sentiments of any organization or product that Rachel is, was, or will be associated with. Rachel Coleman is the creator and Emmy-nominated host of Signing Time!, the children's American Sign Language vocabulary building series. She is also the creator and host of Baby Signing Time, Rachel & the TreeSchoolers, and Rachel & Me. Rachel now serves as the Executive Director of the American Society for Deaf Children, a 501c3 nonprofit established in 1967 by parents of deaf children. ASDC is the American Sign Language organization for families who are raising deaf children. www.deafchildren.org Motivated by her child, Leah's deafness, Rachel has spent the last 18 years creating ASL products to help bridge the communication barrier between hearing and signing communities. In 2006 Rachel founded the Signing Time Foundation, a 501c3 non-profit dedicated to putting communication in the hands of all children of all abilities. In 2014, the Signing Time Foundation launched a 50-Lesson online ASL curriculum called "Sign It: ASL Made Easy" that is available free-of-charge to families with deaf or hard of hearing children ages 36 months and under. Apply at www.mydeafchild.org. For those who do not qualify to receive Sign It ASL for free, they can find it for purchase at very reasonable rates on www.SignItASL.com. Rachel and her husband, Aaron, live in Salt Lake City Utah. They are parents to Leah who was born profoundly deaf, and is now a senior in college at NTID/RIT in Rochester, NY. They are also parents to Lucy who has spina bifida and cerebral palsy, and recently graduated high school. In 2010 the Colemans were joyfully reunited with Rachel's daughter Laura. Rachel is proud to be Laura's birth mom. Laura was placed for adoption as an infant in 1992 when Rachel was 17 years-old.

9 thoughts on “Day 5 Ghana 2012 Continued: Everything Has a Name

  1. Rachel – I am hooked! I look forward to hearing about your next days experience. What an amazing experience you have all had. Makes me very thankful for the services I receive for Robert and Max! I’m sure they’ve never even heard of an IEP in Ghana!

  2. Thanks so much for letting us know how things are going. You are working so hard and accomplishing so much in just a few days. Very inspiring!

  3. Rachel, Thank you for taking the time to blog about your adventure every day!!! The pictures are amazing! As always, you inspire and move me to tears. I’ve contributed tiny amounts twice now and posted your blog to my Facebook hoping to draw bigger wallets than mine to your cause! All the best to you and your team!!!

  4. Carissa, who has a tough time complimenting me, said “Rachel, that was genius! We were trying to figure our how to connect the labels, but ‘you have a name and a sign, and so does everything else’ it was genius!”

    It WAS genius. And I don’t have a hard time complimenting you…I just don’t want you to get a big head from all that praise. 🙂

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