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Deaf, Bi-lingual and Achieving Against the Odds

Deaf, Bi-lingual and Achieving Against the Odds

Daniel Carruthers, a 29 year old with severe hearing loss, has been awarded the inaugural Quest for Excellence Scholarship for Deaf and hearing impaired New Zealanders at an event held in Auckland last night to kick off Deaf Awareness Week.

The $15,000 scholarship was established by the National Foundation for the Deaf and the Deaf Association of New Zealand for post-graduate study. Its purpose is to reward and inspire people whose hearing disability has meant they have had to overcome great odds.

Daniel Carruthers already has two degrees and is currently studying for his Masters degree in Tourism. Having a B.Com in marketing, a BA in Chinese and a Diploma in Tourism is a huge achievement in itself. But throw in the fact that Daniel has not only mastered the English language (no mean feat for someone with 80% hearing loss) and successfully mastered Mandarin - one of the hardest languages to learn – and you begin to see the determination and ambition of the 29 year old.

“I am honoured and excited to be the winner of the inaugural Quest for Excellence Scholarship,” said Daniel, who flew back to Auckland from China to accept the award. “The scholarship gives me the much needed impetus to complete my already embarked upon research thesis revolving around sister cities in New Zealand and China and the implications for Tourism.

“Importantly, the scholarship has also provided an opportunity to raise awareness of the challenges faced by 450,000 Deaf and hearing impaired New Zealanders everyday. I hope that I, together with future recipients, will inspire others to be optimistic and strive to achieve their goals.”

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Daniel’s hearing loss was detected as a baby but he has never let that set him back.

Rather than attend a Deaf school, Daniel was mainstreamed and despite his hearing loss he excelled academically, often above his hearing peers. He said that one of the major challenges he faced throughout school was being cast outside of social circles for being different.

Daniel never let these knocks set him back, and after completing his first degree in 1997, he took time out to do volunteer work at the Bahai World Centre in Israel for 18 months. From there he went to live on the remote South Atlantic island, St Helena, for six months where he was involved in numerous community projects including conservation, teaching and promoting tourism.

Then, following a holiday several years ago, Daniel decided to work in China and learn the language. He did a variety of jobs but found it difficult to learn Chinese. He returned to New Zealand and enrolled in a Beginners Chinese paper at Auckland University, becoming an “A” student. He then went back to China to enrol at a Northern China university to study for one and a half years while teaching English to pay for his course fees and living expenses.

Now fluent in Chinese, Daniel returned once again to New Zealand (late last year) to embark on his Tourism Masters programme at Otago University.

“As I am equipped with Chinese language skills and knowledge of China and its people, I believe I can offer a lot in my chosen profession. As China is opening up and developing very rapidly, the demand for Mandarin speaking Westerners, (especially in New Zealand) will be higher and I will be poised to take advantage of those opportunities,” says Daniel.

Daniel is currently based in China where he is about to embark upon a 12,000 km bike ride along the Silk Road from Beijing to Venice, to raise US$400,000 for the education of the children of the Silk Road villages. He will be joining the five other cyclists, who have already departed Beijing, in two weeks time, and says the trip will be good training for the New Zealand mountain biking championships which he aims to compete in early next year.

Marianne Schumacher, executive manager of the National Foundation for the Deaf said the aim of the scholarship was to reward and inspire New Zealand’s Deaf and hearing impaired achievers whose hearing disability has meant they have had to overcome great odds.

“Because hearing loss is an invisible disability, it goes without saying that all Deaf and hearing impaired people have faced inevitable challenges over and above the average person to obtain their degree,” said Ms Schumacher. “The aim of this scholarship is to reward excellence and encourage these people to pursue their dreams.

“Daniel is a very talented man who has clearly demonstrated a determination to excel and an incredible enthusiasm for living, learning and helping others.”

The scholarship will be awarded on an annual basis and is open to Deaf and hearing impaired citizens or permanent residents of New Zealand who have an undergraduate degree and plan to embark on postgraduate study. This could be in any field, including the arts, science, fine art, music or otherwise.

Deaf Association of New Zealand CEO Jennifer Brain adds the scholarship will help address the stigma attached to deafness and hearing impairment.

“I am Deaf myself and have always believed that Deaf people can do anything but hear, but to do this we must overcome the barriers that arise along the way. This scholarship is a great incentive to inspire and reward the rising talent amongst our Deaf community and encourage them to achieve their true potential.”

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