Deaf children enjoy summer camp at College Mennonite Church

Sign language is the most common mode of communication at this summer activities program.

Posted on July 2, 2014 at 3:03 a.m.

The elementary-aged children talked to each other excitedly as they arrived at College Mennonite Church for day camp activities. 

Most of their conversation had to do with the storm the night before — how loud the thunder was, who woke up in the middle of the night, who had fallen trees in their yard.

All these stories were relayed in American Sign Language, since most of the children at the camp are deaf or siblings of deaf children.

College Mennonite Church launched the Summer Activities Program (SAP) for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children three years ago and this year 17 children signed up.

Camp director Michele Ramer, who is deaf, explained the purpose of the camp is to give deaf children an opportunity to socialize with other deaf children. 

Some deaf children only get to sign with family members and sometimes they aren't included in the hearing community, she said. 

But during Tuesday morning’s activities, sign language was the normal mode of communication among both the deaf children and some of the hearing facilitators. 

The kids worked to tie knots in quilts that will eventually be donated to countries in need, according to Sheila S. Yoder, coordinator of deaf ministries for College Mennonite Church. 

They will also go on field trips to the zoo and to a local lake before camp ends in mid-July. 

Yoder sees the camp as a way for deaf children to avoid being isolated during the summer, when they aren't in school.

The camp provides a place where deaf children are in the majority, rather than being left on the sidelines of an activity where most of the children participating are hearing, she said. 

Local students from Penn High School and Goshen College who are studying sign language are able to regularly help out at the camp,  gaining experience from working with the kids.

There’s more interest in the camp every year from local families, Yoder said. 

Follow reporter Lydia Sheaks on Twitter at @LydiaSheaks


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