DeafCAN! Christ the King Deaf ChurchSpotlight on 2021 COVID-19 Emergency Response Microgrant Awardees
Serving Vulnerable Groups in Central PA’s DDBHHLD Community
DeafCAN! (Deaf Community Action Network), is a program dedicated to serving vulnerable subpopulations of the deaf community, in West Chester, PA and its surrounding areas, including Deaf, DeafBlind, Hard of Hearing, Late-Deafened (DDBHHLD) refugees and immigrants and DDBHHLD inmates & returning citizens. A human services unit offered by Christ the King Deaf Church, DeafCAN! itself has no religious agenda, and has served marginalized DDBHHLD people of all backgrounds and needs for more than 11 years.
Bridging the Communication Gap for Bhutanese Deaf Refugees
The COVID-19 pandemic has shed light on, and exacerbated many existing systemic inequities, including a lack of linguistically accessible and culturally-responsive healthcare for DDBHHLD people. At the height of the pandemic when data and guidelines were changing rapidly, DDBHHLD people were often left behind. These barriers are even greater for those with limited English language experience, and the large Deaf Bhutanese population in Central PA is one such group.
In the past three years, Bhutanese refugees have relocated to the Harrisburg and Lancaster area in large numbers, with one community leader noting that the region is now home to the largest number of Bhutanese people outside of Bhutan itself. But when COVID-19 lockdowns began in March of 2020, many of these refugees were new to the community and hadn’t yet connected with necessary support systems, including primary healthcare providers or essential social service providers.
DDBHHLD Bhutanese individuals in particular have experienced high levels of isolation throughout the pandemic, and have had inadequate access to accurate scientific and medical information in written Nepali, Nepali Sign Language (NSL) or American Sign Language (ASL), leaving them susceptible to missing or misinformation.
With the support provided by the Foundation’s microgrant award, DeafCAN! is working to connect these DDBHHLD refugees with primary healthcare providers, and ensuring full communication access for those interactions in the form of NSL/ASL interpreter teams. This has included hiring a part-time NSL interpreter and full-time caseworker to educate healthcare and hospital networks about the unique needs of this population, and the importance of NSL/ASL language access. DeafCAN! has also been providing ongoing access to necessary PPE, and COVID-19 vaccine information and registration support.
Hosting the US’s First-Ever World Deaf Refugee Conference
As safe reopening and socialization begins, DeafCAN! will also be employing grant funds to host the first “World Deaf Refugee Day” conference this month to connect DDBHHLD refugees to community members and resources. “To be a Deaf refugee is often to have isolation and uncertainty as a constant companion,” said DeafCAN! Program Director Bill Lockard. “A different religion, culture, often a person of color, perhaps even with other physical or mental challenges, separates one even further….at the first World Deaf Refugee Day Conference next week, local Deaf refugees and immigrants will be coming together, showing one another just how they have survived, married, had children, got licenses, jobs, and [are] looking forward to doing more, being more, because DeafCAN!“
More Microgrant Awardees
Want to learn more about the awardee cohort? Check out 5 other organizations who received COVID-19 Emergency Response microgrant funding here, or stay up to date with Foundation news by subscribing to our newsletter.
DeafCAN! is an organization dedicated to ensuring that Pennsylvania-based DDBHHLD individuals and adults have access to critical services and information in their communities. When you donate to CSD Unites Community Foundation, you’re helping us dedicate funds and resources to multiple nonprofits like DeafCAN!, so they’re better-equipped to sustain or grow the critical services they provide for our deaf communities. Make a one-time or monthly contribution to the CSD Unites Community Foundation here!