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Firm friends help Auckland deaf

J E H O V A H ‘ S W I T N E S S E S

OFFICE OF PUBLIC INFORMATION

Media Release 29 August 2007

Firm friends help Auckland deaf

When Pt Chevalier residents Leonie Morete and Carmen Otatahu met, they could hardly have imagined that they would enjoy a twenty-year friendship based on helping others in the community. Leonie is deaf, and taught Carmen to speak New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL), and now they both assist in training new translators with a multicultural volunteer deaf group based in Avondale.

Carmen, whose husband Finau is profoundly deaf, says that although there are good courses for learning sign language, those who are deaf make excellent teachers because they use so much expression when communicating with others.

“The best signers use lots of expression and talk naturally in pictures rather than word by word – it’s bit like drawing in the air,” says Carmen.

After English and Maori, New Zealand Sign Language is the third most recognised language in New Zealand, but the deaf still face many challenges when being accepted into the community. According to Leonie she usually gets by, though it can be difficult to communicate, and she sometimes has to resort to writing things down. Some deaf are unable to do this however, so she says it’s really helpful when people make the effort to learn a little sign language. It takes just a few moments to learn the basics, such as ‘hello’, ‘how are you’, ‘how can I help you’, and ‘goodbye’, yet this goes a long way to making the deaf feel a part of the community.

Carmen and Finau, along with Leonie and her husband Neville all sign with the Avondale deaf group of Jehovah’s Witnesses. The group actively trains new translators, and have a high ration of signers to deaf of 2:1. Three

of the group have completed recognised tertiary courses in NZSL, and work secularly as translators, while others work as translators in schools.

In addition to weekly Bible education classes, they also run sign language classes for members in Avondale and in Takanini who are interested in learning to sign, where they have around 20 attend each class. The group also makes good use of modern technology – such as using portable computers and DVD’s translated into NZSL to share their beliefs with deaf in the greater Auckland area from Albany to Pukekohe.

The Avondale group includes deaf from China, the Phillipines, Samoa, Rarotonga, Fiji, and Tonga. All are looking forward to meeting with other deaf from around New Zealand, when their yearly three day District Convention – ‘Follow the Christ’, is held at the Telstra Clear Pacific Events Centre in Manukau City this month. The event is free and is fully translated into New Zealand Sign Language for the benefit of the deaf.

The ‘Follow the Christ’ District Convention of Jehovah’s Witnesses will be held at the Telstra Clear Pacific Events Centre on September 7-9. The free programme starts at 9.30am each morning, and the public are welcome to attend.

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