A picnic to support refugees who are deaf

TKhan

Zaineb Abdulla started Deaf Defy in order to meet the needs of deaf children living in refugee camps. When she realized that thousands of deaf children live in these camps, without access to language or sound, she felt compelled to do something.

"I did a little research and couldn't find any other organizations working to provide both sign language and hearing aids/audiological care to these kids so I decided to dive in and get started! I recruited a team of audiologists and deaf language specialists, cross-trained them in the different specialties and connected with the Palestine Children's Relief Fund for logistical support on the ground. This was back in 2017 and since then, we've been hosting annual medical missions to various camps in Lebanon and Jordan," Abdulla says.

The organization is deaf-led, with a dual focus on both language and sound. With deaf leadership and guidance, the team is better able to understand the children they serve. In addition, they have a number of team members who are members of the broader Arab diaspora, allowing them to develop deeper connections with their patients. In contrast to most audiology missions, Deaf Defy places an equal emphasis on language development and audiology. Following their audiological care and hearing aid fitting, the language specialists, who are deaf themselves, work with each child to assess their language skills and help further develop them.

To date, Deaf Defy has run four medical missions, serving over 600 different children across nine refugee camps in two countries. Beyond the numbers, though, are the stories. Abdulla recounts the story of a 9-year-old girl, Rwaida who was severely hard of hearing.

"She met us after having lived in Lebanon for two years. In those two years, she hadn't been able to communicate with her mother, who was trapped in Syria. After fitting her with a hearing aid, her caregiver dialed up her mother in Syria and for the first time in over twenty four months, Rwaida heard her mothers voice," Abdulla narrates.

To support Deaf Defy, the team plans to hold a picnic in the park on September 26th. Details can be found here. They will be having a BBQ picnic with storytelling, an apple dipping bar, unique games and special surprises.

The team will be sharing some of Deaf Defy's stories from the field while also describing plans for their upcoming medical mission to the refugee camps of the Middle East for 2022. Attendees will learn about the plight of deaf refugee children while also discovering ways to get involved and support the cause. Kids are welcome to attend––the venue is equipped with a large playground, volleyball net and face painter.

This event is fully accessible for the deaf and hard of hearing. For additional accessibility needs, please contact zaineb@deafdefy.org.

Before the pandemic, Deaf Defy hosted annual galas as a means of fundraising but also to bring together deaf and hearing folks in a fun way. This event, held outdoors for safety, will serve a similar purpose.

"We're looking forward to great food, ASL story-telling, unique games and fun activities. For those who'd like to support but can't attend the event, we always welcome donations. Donations can be sent in any of the following ways:

Venmo: @deafdefy; CashApp: $DeafDefy; Zelle: donate@deafdefy.org

Check or money order made out to Deaf Defy, Inc and sent to 3432 W. Diversey Ave #207, Chicago, IL 60647," Abdulla tells us.

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I write about culture, politics, parenting, religion, and health. My work has been published in The New York Times, National Geographic, Vanity Fair, Vox and Prism Reports among others.

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