Our role at AAU was multifaceted; it simply cannot be summed up in a word or two. Each day, and with each conversation, our team gained insight into the challenges and needs of deaf people in Ethiopia. Each volunteer brought specialized skills and played an invaluable role. As we navigated through a “language soup” of spoken or written ASL/ESL, Amharic, and/or English our goal was to listen, pose questions, facilitate discussions, and offer information.
Participation was excellent! Both workshop days brought in a group of 100 deaf and hearing students, professionals, teachers, and community members. Discussions created opportunities to share personal experiences and generate strategies for childhood language development. Those studying to become professional interpreters attended training sessions, while other students and community members brainstormed the next steps towards increased advocacy and awareness for the deaf.
Reflecting on these past two days, we all listened, learned and worked together.If I can bring one message home this is it: The experiences and stories that were shared with me are not my own; I am not the expert. I did not come to Ethiopia to “fix” or “solve” or “save”. I don’t have the answers. Rather, my role as a volunteer, as future SLP, and as an individual is to provide the support and tools for empowerment. This workshop fueled energy and excitement amongst members of the deaf community in Addis Ababa; change is in the air.