Dharma for the Deaf

  • The students at the sign language class have undergone transformation from eccentric and anti-social individuals into cheerful and easy-going people. Photo courtesy: Sin Chew Daily

  • Chen Li Mei (L1) and Bimaseri (R) are the best partners at the sign language class. Photo courtesy: Sin Chew Daily

  • Before the end of each sessions, the students will chant the Buddhist sutras in sign language. Photo courtesy: Sin Chew Daily

  • Surendra is pleased to witness the changes taking place in the students. Photo courtesy: Sin Chew Daily

  • Communication in the silent world is often the most direct one, even between a couple. Photo courtesy: Sin Chew Daily

  • 3G video call services provided by telcos have been the most convenient way for the deaf or mute to communicate with one another. Photo courtesy: Sin Chew Daily

KUALA LUMPUR: In the silent world, due to the lack of verbal communication, the deaf and mute are usually a group of people being isolated from the society, even in their own families.

Nevertheless, students from an organisation known as "Dharma for the Deaf" aim to inform the public that through visual language and actions the deaf and mute are not the weak community but have the ability to help those who are unfortunate too.

These students are not well-educated or have high-income jobs. They may even come from impoverished families. However, they are willing to spend their time on charity works in a bid to raise fund for those who are needy.

This noble sentiment has gone far beyond those well educated and high-income individuals living in the cities.

The students have built up their self-confidence and self-understanding through the class, a result of Bimaseri and Chen Li Mei, volunteers at the Brickfields Buddhist Maha Vihara.

Both of them are tutors at the sign language class in the temple. They conduct the class once a fortnight. They not only teach their students Buddhism but also general knowledge and the meanings of life.

Entered its 11th year

The Buddhist sign language class was set up in July 1999 and it has now entered its 11th year. There were only a handful of students at the beginning and the number has since increased to 20 to 30 people aged between 20 and 50.

The free class is also open to members of the public.

Bimaseri and Chen said that these students were the most beautiful angels the had ever seen as they constantly brought priceless joy to them.

Witnessing the growth

Dharma for the Deaf is the only religious organisation striving for the welfare of the deaf. It promotes selfless services including the implementation of the annual festive welfare program and fund-raising events for the needy.

Surendra, himself a deaf person, is the president of Dharma for the Deaf. He joined the organisation in 1999 and has witnessed the growth of it throughout the years.

He said the objective of the organisation was to lead the deaf to learn morally acceptable ways of life and contribute meaningfully towards the society.

He is pleased to see close-minded students change their characters into cheerful and positive people.

Even if the students do not enjoy high incomes and some them even live far from the temple, they have been attending the classes regularly.

Surendra hopes the public could also take part in the class in order to get a better understanding of the deaf.

The only sign language interpreter in judiciary

Chen, the only sign language interpreter in the judiciary, is a sign language interpreter with the state-run TV station.

She picked up sign language back then to help those unable to hear or talk, but never thought she would build up her career in this field.

Chen has been teaching at the class all of the past 11 years, and Bimaseri is her best partner in the class. She understands very well that she needs to have a sincere and respectful attitude when dealing with the deaf people, and will not mind repeating herself several times until her lessons are thoroughly understood by the class.

To Chen, nothing is better than the ability to help the deaf live their lives to the fullest.

Laughter the driving force

Although Bimaseri is a high-ranking officer in a courier company, he is a very humble person. He started to become a volunteer at Dharma for the Deaf because as a devout Buddhist, he would like to offer a hand to the needy in the society.

Even though he knew little about sign language he still accepted the job as a tutor with the help of Chen.

He is always friendly and ready to share his knowledge on human rights, positive thinking and the self-protection with his students.

To him, the laughter of his students is the driving force that has propelled her forward. (Translated by LIM LIY EE/Sin Chew Daily)

MySinchew 2010.09.15