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Volume 1 Issue 12 July 2008

Deaf Villagers Seeking Education

A typical village admist the Himalayan mountains in Nepal. “I am sorry to say we cannot answer your question on how many deaf people there are in Nepal. We are unable to get such data due to the extreme difficulties of reaching deaf people in villages.” Hem R. Rai, Program Officer for Gandaki Association of the Deaf Take a moment to visualize yourself growing up in the middle of the Himalayan Mountain range of Nepal. With glaciers and snow-capped peaks stretching as far as the eye can see and measuring 5,000 - 8,850 meters high (that’s 16,000-29,000 feet), the Himalayas make the Rockies look like sledding hills. Yaks,

What is DDW? Dave Justice and Christy Smith are traveling the world to learn and share stories of empowerment, inspiration, and connection between international Deaf communities. Discovering Deaf Worlds (DDW) is an opportunity to give deaf people worldwide a voice. For more information, photos, video logs, and newsletter stories, visit

Suresh Shahi meets deaf villager Nani Maya Ganug and tells her of educational opportunities. goats, and birds of prey are spread wildly across the landscape. Tiers of rice fields and suspension bridges with multi-colored prayer flags swerve through rivers and valleys, connecting small villages scattered along the way. These are the mountains where every true climber and trekker around the world dreams of visiting someday. In these mountains, it feels like a transportation time warp, pre-invention of the wheel, where distance between villages is measured by “how many days walk”: Chamje is a three-day walk; Manang, seven days, and so forth. There are no roads, only footpaths. Villagers depend on pack mules to carry goods from one village to another. Hospitals, schools, Internet cafes, and general access to civilization are scarce, if available at all. Connection and intermingling with the outside world comes mostly from local town porters making deliveries, or foreign trekkers out to see the Himalayas. So in an environment that already offers such extreme isolation, what is life like for a deaf person? There is no sign language instruction or deaf education available. There are no hearing aids or speech therapists. But perhaps most isolating of all is the openness with which parents and families are VILLAGERS, continued on page 5 July 2008 1

Deaf Man in Asia Elected to Parliament

Raghav Bir Joshi during an interview with DDW

After 25 years of service fighting for the rights of deaf people, Raghav Bir Joshi has been elected as the first deaf member of Parliament in Asia. This is an enormous victory for Raghav, former president of the Nepal National Federation of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (NFDH). His term with the Constituent Assembly will impact many thousands of people in the deaf community throughout Nepal, Asia and the world at large. Congratulations, Raghav! Keep paving the way to make the world a better place for deaf people. We’ll be keeping an eye on your accomplishments.

Freedom for Nepal

Nepal’s former king Gyanendra

On May 28, 2008, a 240-year monarchy was abolished in Nepal when the recently elected Constituent Assembly declared Nepal a federal democratic republic. The most recent monarch, King Gyanendra, succeeded the throne in 2001 after a massacre conducted by his nephew, Crown Prince Dipendra, where several members of the royal family were shot and killed. King Gyanendra has not been well received by the Nepali people, especially after dismissing the elected parliament and taking full control of the government in 2005. The recent overthrow marks the beginning of a new Nepal, since the Shah dynasty was the longest-running Hindu monarchy in history.

Deaf Couple Owns Hotel in Nepal Not only were Pramila and Devendra Shakya the first deaf couple to own a hotel in Nepal, but they were also the first deaf couple to marry in Nepal! If you are planning a trip to Nepal and need a place to rest your head and lay your gear, support a deafowned business by staying at Hotel Metropolitan Kantipur. Located in Thamel, the heart of Kathmandu, this hotel is a short walk from Dubar Square and Swayambunath Stupa, two must-see destinations. The exceptional friendly staff are fluent in both Dave, Christy, Pramila and Devendra Shakya Nepali as well as English, and have visual language at the Kantipur Hotel entrance. skills to communicate with deaf people. There is an array of travel information available to book outside ropolitan Kantipur is your Nepali home away from adventures and the Shakya family can even connect home. you with a hearing or deaf trekking guide for a jourFor more information on the Hotel Metropolitan ney through the Himalaya Mountains. Hotel Met- Kantipur, visit 2

Discovering Deaf Worlds

Give Us a Chance, and We Will Shine required to handle the day-to-day When was the last time you operations of these cafes, 45 deaf were served by a deaf waiter/waitand hard of hearing people have ress at a restaurant? Probably not been hired into server or managerecently…or more likely, never. ment positions. Ever think of why that might be? The Bakery Café has become Sure, deaf people might work beone of the most consistent and luhind the scenes washing dishes, crative restaurants in Nepal and bussing tables, or cutting vegetables, but why not out in the open their reputation for outstanding customer service is what keeps serving customers? Are server popeople coming back again and sitions, where customer interacagain. There is much pride behind tions are a requirement, viewed the ethics of a business providing as ‘hearing’ jobs? Is it because the employment opportunities, and restaurant business fears a comultimately, financial independence munication breakdown will result Deaf employees welcome you to to the deaf community. in poor service? Or do they think The Bakery Café in Thamel So how about it, restaurants that deaf people are just not caaround the world? How many deaf pable to hold their own when it servers, bartenders, hosts, and comes to customer service? None of this holds true for The Bakery Café in Ne- managers are working with you? When given a chance, pal, where 25% of the employees are deaf or hard of deaf people can do anything…and shine! For more information on The Bakery Café, check out hearing. First opening in 1976, The Bakery Café has since grown to eight successful locations throughout this online article: the greater Kathmandu area. Of the nearly 200 staff php?&nid=10299.

On July 23-Sept. 16, Discovering Deaf Worlds will be in Northern India, the final destination for this year’s journey.

International Travel Tidbits *Blink*Blink*Blink* Replace Battery Already?! Colder climates can often drain a fresh camera battery down to nothing overnight. A total buzz kill, especially if you are nowhere near civilization to charge up or buy a new one. So before you doze off, wrap your batteries in a t-shirt and throw them in your sleeping bag. Your body heat will keep them alive for those Kodak moments.

Safety Pins & Laundry Packing light for a long trek has its pros and cons, weighing comfort to stink as the days go by. When you’ve reached that breaking point, wash a shirt with biodegradable soap then safety-pin it to your backpack. As you’re walking in the sunshine, you’ll have a clean, dry, zesty shirt by lunch.

July 2008 3

A Thank You to Our Sponsors The Next Generation of WebSites Take charge of your site Your website is your brand. It’s you, Your company, appearing in the landscape… Take charge today!

Ralph P. DeStephano Donate to DDW by going online!

add your logo or banner to the DDW website!


Shout -Outs! Shout Shout-Outs! -Outs! Shakya Family…for welcoming us into your family, your home, and your traditions. You gave us an incredible peek into Nepali culture we could not have experienced on our own. Philip Waters…for being our link to the deaf community in Nepal. We are envious of the work you do. You are a leader. You are making a difference. Go grab that Ph.D.

Over 18,000 cumulative hits from 98 countries!

Terence Murphy…for your generous donation to help boost Discovering Deaf Worlds into the next phase. Thank you for believing in us!

Contact for more information, options, and pricing.

Suresh…Every day in those mountains, you are making a huge impact on isolated deaf villagers and their hearing families. You show them all what deaf people can do. Thank you for your guidance in the Himalayas.

Discovering Deaf Worlds

Pack mules, the main mode of transportation, deliver rice on the Annapurna Circuit. VILLAGERS, continued from front page ashamed of their deaf children. “My daughter is deaf. She was a mistake from God,” was what one local villager told us. During a 16-day trek through the Annapurna Circuit with deaf guide, Suresh Shahi, we met an isolated deaf person in nearly every village we passed through. We saw the same thing again and again: as children, they were deprived of access to communication, which means as adults, they have no developed language, in sign, speech or written. Their families see them as a burden and don’t know what to do with their “deaf and dumb” son or daughter. Suresh, who doubles as the president for the Kathmandu Deaf Association, has been persistent in learning more about these deaf villagers and educate their families on educational opportunities, such as the Sirjana School for the Deaf in Pokhara. While some families responded only with pity or humility, many of them began to think in a different light. After all, for most, this was their first exposure to sign language and effective communication with a deaf person. “Why don’t I have that with my own son/daughter? I never knew that was possible!” was a common reaction. For them to see educated deaf people such as Suresh and Christy communicating fluently with a hearing person, Dave, was an awakening experience, and they understood the possibility of fluid communication. For the cost of 1,800 rupees/month ($27 USD), those families can send their deaf child to one of the 18 deaf schools spread throughout Nepal. Yet in the remote villages of the mountains, many deaf children are still unable to go for multiple reasons. Ei-

Deaf students learning at the Sirjana School for the Deaf. (Photo courtesy: Deaf Way UK) ther their families cannot afford the money on top of losing an able body to work, or their deaf child is already past school age. So many of them remain in their villages, oppressed, isolated, and without language development. Recognizing the complexities of getting deaf villagers into schools, the Gandaki Association of the Deaf (GAD) in Pokhara developed a trial outreach program. In 2007, with funding from Deaf Way UK, the Mobile Nepali Sign Language Training Program provided one sign language teacher and one moto driver, both deaf, to visit families with deaf children in the municipalities of Pokhara and Lekhnath. In 10 months, this duo connected with 355 parents, family members, and friends to teach them Nepali Sign Language and educate them about deaf culture. The total cost for this one-year program was $4,295 USD, a small amount of money to make an enormous impact. With funding and success, GAD intends to continue spreading awareness, education and language training in these villages, give hope to those who have been deprived, and show that deaf people can give back to their communities. They are also working towards creating a database network of deaf villagers to finally identify how many deaf people there actually are in Nepal. A major goal of Discovering Deaf Worlds is to spread awareness about deaf issues around the globe. We want you to be informed of the unique challenges, as well as the responses happening in these parts of the world. Those of you who are reading this article have had the opportunity and access to develop a language. We hope you will pass it on. Share your knowledge. July 2008 5

What's a Prayer Flag?

In Loving Memory of Ralph P. DeStephano

A tradition of Tibetan Buddhism, prayer flags represent peace, strength, wisdom and compassion. As the wind blows, the blessing messages of these flags are spread to benefit everyone. Prayer flags are hung in high Prayer flags hang from a stupa places and left to in Kathmandu, Nepal dissolve over time from exposure to the elements of nature. Each color represents a different element: blue-sky/space, white-air/wind, red-fire, green-water, yellow-earth. New flags eventually will replace the old, to symbolize how life moves on.

When the Park Ridge Hospital was built in Greece, New York, Ralph P. DeStephano showed us how one man’s perseverance could impact an entire community. Ralph was an instrumental spon- Ralph P. DeStephano (1911-2008) sor to the startup of Discovering Deaf Worlds and loving grandfather to Dave Justice. We will miss, we will remember, and we will do our best to carry on your legacy of community service.


The impulse to travel is one of the hopeful symptoms of life.

–Agnes Repplier

Nepal Sign Language In each issue, DDW prints the fingerspelled alphabet of a visited country.

For more information on deaf culture in Nepal, visit the Nepal National Federation of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (NFDH) at


Discovering Deaf Worlds

Two Months Left: Your Help Needed We have only two months left to make it back to the States and fulfill our year-long journey of discovering deaf worlds. If you have enjoyed reading our newsletter and are feeling generous today, please make a small donation to help us see this project through. We are living on a combined budget of $20-$25 per day in both India and Nepal, so donations of any size can have a profound impact. You will be helping us cover additional project expenses we have for video equipment and editing, interpreting services, the newsletter you are reading right now and much more. Donations can be made online or by mail. To donate, visit

Dave and Christy prepare for a return to India.

Buddhas In Disguise: Deaf People of Nepal Pick up a copy of Buddhas In Disguise: Deaf People of Nepal, by Irene Taylor. As a customer review on says, “A richly illustrated and knowledgeable portrayal of the life, environment and culture of the deaf in Nepal, written by a woman who spent three years living and working with these forgotten but brave people. The book is worth getting for the photography alone, which is wonderful, but the photos are accompanied by a fascinating description of a people about which the world is nearly completely ignorant. If you are interested in Nepal, in foreign cultures, in excellent photography, or deafness, I highly recommend this book.”

The first condition of understanding a foreign country is to smell it

Did You Know...

–T.S. Eliot • •

Newsletter services provided by T.S. Writing Services, LLC A Deaf-Owned Company

• •

• It is common for male friends to walk down the street holding hands. • A sign that says “hotel” doesn’t always mean a place to sleep; often it is only a restaurant. • 82% of Nepalis live on less than $2 USD per day. • Nepal’s flag is unique with two overlapping triangles, as opposed to the standard rectangular shape. A Nepali’s surname can tell you the person’s caste, profession, ethnic group, and where s/he lives. Each year, trekkers in Nepal leave behind 100,000 kilograms of unrecyclable water bottles. Nepalis divide the year into six seasons: summer is replaced by pre-monsoon, monsoon, and post-monsoon About 90% of local Nepali people eat daal baht (lentil soup and rice) twice a day, everyday. July 2008 7

July 2008 Newsletter: vol.1, iss.12 A typical village admist the Himalayan mountains in Nepal. Suresh Shahi meets deaf villager Nani Maya Ganug an...

July 2008 Newsletter: vol.1, iss.12 A typical village admist the Himalayan mountains in Nepal. Suresh Shahi meets deaf villager Nani Maya Ganug an...