Whoever is deaf, blind, or different in any way is hardly visible in Korea. Parents are ashamed of and do not know how to deal with a child that is different.
I do not know why the schools for the deaf are built in very remote areas, except for the ones in Pyongyang and Hamhung. But it does not have to remain this way, does it?
What we have reached so far is so encouraging that we dare to dream further: On the small map below you will see two places marked in red. One is the capital of the province North-Hamgyong: Chongjin. With over 325,000 inhabitants there is still no school for the deaf here yet. Their school is in a village further north, which according to my calculations takes at least a whole day by car to reach and is therefore too far away for most families.
About 0.02 to 0.1 percent of the human population is either born deaf or becomes deaf before their 18th birthday. In poor countries the number tends to be higher. This leads to the conclusion that there are probably more than 300 deaf persons in the city of Chongjin alone, which are enough children for a whole school! Nobody can answer Robert Grund’s enquiry why this city does not have such a School.
We have therefore joined forces to find out how to promote a school there, even though it is the task of the state to provide such a school. We are convinced that it is important to make the officials aware of this fact – and if possible to take the first steps in this direction.
One possibility is to first open a special kindergarten and a center for the deaf. For example, with a wood shop as it was successfully done in Pyongyang. It is obvious that a school will have to follow
up the kindergarten and we hope that the state will provide one. We are excited about opening the first kindergarten in Chongjin!
We have been supporting the organization TOGETHER for several years. Robert Grund, deaf since birth, is giving a voice to the concerns of the deaf.
Although there are special schools in every North Korean province, deaf and blind persons are not visible in public. Many persuasive efforts are necessary to enable communication between the deaf
and the blind among each other and with the hearing and seeing.
Special kindergartens and schools for deaf children are part of the efforts, as well as assistance for communication between parents and their children. Thanks to your donations, Agape international has repeatedly been able to offer financial assistance: We printed
sign language booklets and purchased technical equipment to access intranet.
Robert Grund, Project Director of Together Hamhung, has further plans: „It would be a milestone to insert a sign language interpreter during the broadcast of national television news. So far there is no practical experience in this area. I want to offer a study trip to Europe in 2017 so that interested parties can gain practical experience how this is done.“
A visit to the Swiss Foundation procom (www.procom-deaf.ch) would be interesting within the study trip. Procom promotes communication possibilities of hearing-impaired people among each other, as well as between the hearing-impaired and hearing persons. It offers sign language interpretation services and organizes a telephone service for the hearing-impaired.
We want to enable meetings between deaf Swiss and Korean persons.
After the flood disaster in North Korea in the fall of last year, many people lost their homes and their provisions for the winter.
In the meantime, the container that we sent after the request for aid from the North Korean embassy and in proven cooperation with GAiN Germany will have arrived.
In May we will travel to the region Yonsa that was most affected by the flooding to supervise the distribution of the relief goods. I know from experience that it is good to explain how to use the baby food on-site.