My name is Ahmed Ashfaaq. I have been Executive Director of the Maldives Deaf Association (MDA) since 2008. We have many islands in the country. Some deaf people told me that deaf people who live on islands far from the capital / big islands have many problems. So we went to many islands and taught them to fight for their rights. However we could not visit all the islands where deaf people live due to our lack of finance. So I decided to apply for this training program because I wanted to know how to solve our problems.
In Japan, I studied the Japanese language and Japanese Sign Language (JSL), both of which I had never studied in the Maldives. I studied Hiragana, Katakana and Kanji. I found JSL interesting and easy to memorize while finding Kanji very difficult. This was because I always communicated with Deaf people through JSL and did not use written Japanese much. In December, I had to take the Japanese Language Proficiency Test. I was anxious to some extent that a result would not be good. When I heard that I did not pass…. I was rather sad. However, I would like to thank my Japanese language and JSL teachers who taught me.
During my New Year holidays, I went to Hyogo Prefecture for my home-stay program and stayed with Iwabayashi-san’s family. I met the parents, who were both Deaf, and their eldest daughter in their home but their three other daughters lived away from home. I built a bond with them felt as if the Deaf parents were my real parents. I also had great fun with them and appreciated everything in their home. Mr. Iwabayashi asked me for help in picking tomatoes in their farm. I enjoyed working in the tomato field with him for two days.
I wondered why their eldest daughter was not talking much. So I asked my host father about it, and he explained that there were some reasons. I wanted to help to ease her mind and proactively started talking to her. I told her my life stories in the Maldives and she started to listen to me. We talked about a variety of topics, and though quiet at first, she started to talk, much to my relief. Her mother was delighted as her daughter regained cheerfulness and resumed conversation with her parents. The family and I enjoyed traveling together and had a fun time in Hyogo Prefecture.
I went to Echigo Yuzawa in Niigata Prefecture. I had never skied before and I had no idea about how to ski. One of the ski trainers knew sign language, and explained to me how to do it. It was interesting to ski on different levels but I wanted to enjoy skiing more than just for two days.
In Nagasaki Prefecture, I stayed at the Nagasaki Information Center for the Deaf for training for one month. I felt that the center was a very peaceful place. I met Motomura san, who taught me how to negotiate with the government as well as how to protect Deaf women. I was inspired by her and thanked her for sharing her knowledge with me. In addition, other Deaf and hearing staff members taught me how to access video and media services in the Information Center.
I learned about editing videos on a PC and updating a blog and news of my organization on the website at the Kagayaki Pasocon School. I had had no experience in posters, web blogging, and video editing. It was exciting to study how to do posters, blogging and video editing for my organization. I would like to thank Mr. Nonaka for sharing his knowledge with me.
I went to the National Rehabilitation Center for Persons with Disabilities and participated in the sign language interpreter development program as well as other activities, through which I enchanced my udnerstanding on sign language and cultural diversity within the Deaf community.
I went to Meisei Gakuen School for the Deaf for two weeks. I was surprised to see how expressive Deaf children were, using sign language. Seeing a film about a 5-month-old baby babbling by using a sign language, I understood why Deaf children were able to communicate well through sign language. When I asked a 6-year-old girl about her family, she gave me a detailed account using perfect sign language. I was surprised to see her sign language skills, based on which she can communicate very well with others.
In Awaji Island, Hyogo, I stayed at the home for Deaf senior citizens for one week. I learned how to take care of Deaf senior citizens. I also interacted with them and heard about their life stories including their personal history, which was very interesting. Moreover, I learned how to help Deaf senior citizens with the meals. I was happy learning useful skills there.
I learned about how to make a presentation and how to add animation effects to PowerPoint slides at the NPO Japanese ASL Signers Society. Based on what I learned, then, I prepared a set of slides for a one-hour presentation, which was about my life, Maldivian culture and the Maldives Deaf Association. I practiced my presentation a lot and became ready to give it in front of audiences. On my presentation day, 24 people turned up and they were asked to evaluate my presentation. While waiting for feedback I was not nervous about if they had been bored or not – in fact, I received good results for my presentation. In addition, I subsequently gave another presentation in Nagasaki for 1 hour, after which the audience asked me many questions for 45 minutes. I very much appreciated their attention, questions and comments. I would like to thank Kumiko Sensei and Setsuko Sensei for teaching me presentation techniques.
On March 4, I went to Ehime, Matsuyama Prefecture, for the annual Duskin family event, where I delivered a presentation on Maldivian culture and the Maldives Deaf Association. I was surprised to see that there were as many as 1400 people in the audience. I was glad that my presentation was received well by many people.
Raise awareness and knowledge of and empower Maldivian Deaf people,
Sign language interpreter center: establish interpreter services for access by the Deaf people such as at hospitals, police offices and other places where sign language interpreter is needed
Deaf education in the Maldives: establish Deaf school with a dormitory, for Deaf students who live very far in the islands.
Provide an opportunity to support awareness for Deaf community in the Maldives, and make news and media accessible for Deaf community in the country
Support and empower Deaf people in Asia so that they can be equipped with equal amount of knowledge to those of hearing
I would like to thank the Duskin AINOWA Foundation and the Japanese Society of Rehabilitation for Persons with Disabilities. I will never forget everyone who supported me during my wonderful training. Thanks must also go to the 14th Duskin Family and my good Deaf friends in Japan. I am going back to the Maldives to help Deaf Maldivians as well as Deaf people in wider Asia, because I want to see Deaf Asian community develop. I know that I will miss Japan a lot when I leave for home. Living in Japan’s society has inspired me to learn about Deaf management and social initiatives such as welfare. I love Japan so much. I hope that I can come back to Japan for travel someday.