Ambassador Greenfield Urged Deaf Students
The United States Ambassador to Liberia, Ms. Linda Thomas Greenfield, over the weekend encouraged students of the Hope for the Deaf school to push forward in life and not be depressed by their handicaps.
She spoke as a guest speaker on Friday, June 25, 2011, at the first kindergarten graduation exercise which saw nine hearing impaired children promoted to the first grade.
The program was characterized by many activities including songs, drama, cultural performance, visual aid demonstration, spelling bee contest, solo and dance - all performed by the students.
Ambassador Greenfield said disable people were doing many things in the Liberian society and the school has empowered its 63 students to live more meaningful lives that could help them in the society.
“Disable people are doing many things in the Liberian society and their works are being recognized, we know so many. I want you students to know that I have a young man working for me at the US Embassy who is hearing impaired,” the US ambassador encouraged the assembly of deaf students and their parents.
Narrating how the hearing impaired staff, Isaac Jefferson of the US embassy travelled several time to get instructions on his job as a voucher examiner, the ambassador urged the students not to allow their disabilities to hold them down.
“Mr. Jefferson is a dedicated and well respected colleague at my embassy here in Monrovia. He is not only focused on his own success, Mr. Jefferson focuses on providing educational opportunities for other deaf children so that they can achieve what he has achieved in his life. He did not allow his handicap to hold him down. And I want to say to you, do not allow your handicap to hold you back,” she said.
She told the students they could be leaders, teachers or business persons and become well respected but they needed to think big and stay focused to meet their goals.
“Your President was in the United States recently, and she give a commencement address at the Harvard University, and one of the things she said resonated with me, she said and I quote; ‘if your goals don’t scare you, it is not big enough.”
Impressed by the activities which characterized the graduation ceremony, the US diplomat urged the parents to be proud of their children despite the handicap that they (the children) are faced with.
Also speaking at the program, Mr. David T. Worlobah, II, program coordinator of the Hope for Deaf Institute, said deaf education in Liberia has suffered difficulties because of limited support or enthusiasm.
Mr. Worlobah said because there are fewer schools in the country that provide any education for young people who are hearing or speaking impaired, illiteracy remains high among them (deaf and dumb).
“The objective of this school is to empower these people through education to help themselves in the society,” he said.
He encouraged the parents to help bridge the communication barrier between them and their children to promote a smooth relationship among them.
“I will like parents to help their children. Some parents are not showing interest in their children. If a person is deaf, that does not mean that person is not mentally sound. I have encouraged parents to come and learn the sign language,” he said.
He said there are plans to expand the program from Monrovia to other parts of the country to give opportunity to those living with deafness to learn and become productive citizens in the country.
Though the school is conducting training in shoemaking, the program coordinator said there are intentions to integrate more vocational training including soap making, tailoring and tie and dye.
“Hope for the deaf has been in the vanguard to make the lives of the deaf in Liberia better,” he said.