Recently I was given a copy of Shoestrings and Smiles, a historical outline of the first 100 years of ministry amongst deaf and hard of hearing people in the Diocese of Oxford. It gives a flavour and appreciation of the work of the Oxford Diocesan Council for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing throughout that time and the dedicated commitment of numerous and varied group of people, both deaf and hearing, who have given freely of themselves with and for the deaf community in the Diocese of Oxford.
It has been enlightening to be alongside a local deaf friend in the past few years and learn about the challenges he faces every day and what strength and talent he has. How he values the support offered by the hearing community and the ODCD with services at various locations in the diocese. Shortly before the ODCD was selected as mission of the month, in September last year, the Over 50s group in Donnington, Age UK, and Revd Roger Williams met with our friend John, to discuss a Deaf Awareness Day as John was anxious to improve communications between hearing and deaf people in the community. Roger signed for John and we established further connections and support from Age UK and Deaf Direct. On the actual day we had an interpreter all day and John was able to communicate his thoughts and, with a deaf friend, he taught us some signing and lip reading skills. Some time later we learnt that a local friend of John’s asked for help to increase her knowledge of sign language and lip reading so she could communicate effectively with John. She now attends the exercise group and IT sessions and John is teaching her signing with the help of the instruction sheets we were handed on the day. It is a joy to see such animated conversations going on and new skills and friendships being forged.
Further examples are constantly being demonstrated with joint participation in community gardening projects and sharing John`s passion for gardening and wildlife, and the inclusion of Revd Ben Whitaker and Roger Williams at our Community Information morning when they shared their information with the local community and numerous service providers such as NHS, OCC, Age UK, Police, and Trading Standards and also interpreted for John so he could access and understand the support available with familiar people around him. It is so important that we make connections and build a local network of support for Deaf people.
If anyone has any suggestions or would like to share in raising funds for ODCD in our local area please get in touch as there is much mission work to be done supporting the deaf, both young and older people. There is an ongoing need for funds to refurbish the Deaf Centre and employ a full time chaplain to carry on the mission work throughout the Diocese with pastoral care and spiritual and social support for those who are vulnerable and in need of care but unable to voice their needs.
May I suggest Shoestrings and Smiles as a booklet to give background to the valuable mission of the ODCD. Printed by Parchment in 1998 it does give ‘food for thought’ and has led to many dedicating their lives to the deaf and hard of hearing at considerable financial cost to themselves. Please pray for guidance for the future work, the selection of a full-time chaplain, and more financial resources to continue the valuable mission.
Contact Revd Ben Whitaker for ODCD information on
01865 736100 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ideas for raising funds please contact Cecily on
01865 242852 or email email@example.com