Their actions spoke louder than their words on Nelson Mandela International Day on July 18 when 19 deaf young adults, two deaf priests, and two visually- and hearing-impaired adults volunteered for a morning of unusual community service at Rose Academies in Santa Clara.
With the guidance of Rose Academies founder and CEO Susan Stasi, who knows American Sign Language, the volunteers cut out and sewed 19 reusable cloth sanitary pads and 30 dignity kits for disabled girls at Kyangwali Refugee Settlement in western Uganda and deaf girls at the Uganda Federation of the Hard of Hearing.
In these communities, personal hygiene supplies are scarce. Girls without supplies stay home from school during their periods and miss out on the education that can lift them out of poverty.
The volunteers were members of the Deaf Young Adult Program of the International Catholic Deaf Association-U.S. (ICDA-US). They were attending the ICDA Biennial Conference at Santa Clara University July 14 – 19.
Rose Academies is a nonprofit dedicated to serving vulnerable and oppressed women, girls and deaf individuals in Sub-Sahara Africa, particularly Cameroon and Uganda. Founded in 2014, it has taught over 4,500 women and youth, including hundreds of deaf youth, about the reproductive process as well as how to make their own reusable pads.
“By introducing them to menstruation and sexual development, they are taught vital information that will help keep them in school,” said Stasi. “We teach boys and girls to reduce the taboo and shame associated with menstruation. This ultimately leads to healthier and more productive lifestyles.”
Stasi will deliver the personal hygiene items when she travels in September to Uganda, where Rose Academies is legally registered to operate. To add to the inventory, visit www.kidsthatcareclub.com/service_ktcc.html for the patterns for sanitary pads and dignity kit bags, which contain additional personal items.
Contact Stasi at email@example.com or through the Rose Academies website: www.roseacademies.org.
Fr. Christopher Klusman, director of the Deaf Young Adult Program for the ICDA, was one of the two priests participating in the service project at Rose Academies. He is one of 14 deaf Catholic priests worldwide.
Klusman, who serves in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, lifted up the relationship of Rose Academies with Fr. Paul Zirimenya with the Archdiocese of San Francisco. Zirimenya, who also is deaf, was born in Uganda.
“Their prior personal connection with Fr. Paul and their helping his people in his home country is so beautiful,” said Klusman, who added an insight he believes the hearing community needs to understand about the deaf.
“Deaf people are also made in God’s image and likeness and are given many God-given talents…. The Catholic deaf community see deafness as a gift from God, not a disability, impediment, or deficiency,” said Klusman. “Deafness is something they feel is a beautiful thing given to them by God.”
Santa Clara has a deaf Catholic community of about 20. A larger number of deaf individuals live in Fremont, where the free California School for the Deaf is located (www.csdeagles.com).