Community Outreach: CPD's Programs for the Deaf & Hard-of-Hearing
Sarah Faber, program specialist for the Chicago Park District’s Deaf and Hard of Hearing Program, knows what it’s like to feel alone because of a hearing loss. Faber grew up on the east coast, attending a school that had little to offer to deaf or hard-of-hearing students besides a small support group. The group consisted of a variety of students from all over her area, some living up to two hours away, so most of the students only got the chance to connect with each other during school days. Although small, Faber stressed the importance of this group to her childhood saying that for the first time in her life she felt like she belonged to a community.
This sense of community is what led Faber to advocate for programs for the deaf and hard-of-hearing in Chicago, and she now runs a variety of programs to support Chicagoans of all ages. The Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Programs serve individuals with all types of hearing loss. They offer programs for kids, teens, and adults. All of the programs are communication accessible meaning American Sign Language (ASL) is the standard method of communication. The programs range from day camps and afterschool programs for kids to teen club on Friday nights to three adult basketball teams that compete in national tournaments.
Faber is involved in the operations for all of the programs, but she holds a special spot in her heart for the kid’s day camp, Camp Sign. Over the years they have recruited more and more children to take part in this day camp, and Faber has seen firsthand how this experience builds self-esteem. She described a young boy with both hearing loss and issues communicating with his hands, and how alone he must have felt at school and at home where he had not been exposed to people who knew how to communicate with him. However a couple of days into the camp, she noticed him laughing and having a great time with the other kids. These types of experiences are what motivates Faber to continue her work. She stresses how much a deaf and hard-of-hearing role model can change an individual’s life. She says, "We can do anything we want to do, we just have to work harder for it."
In addition to her involvement in day camp, Faber coaches a women’s basketball team. A Deaf Olympic basketball player herself, Faber is committed to seeing her team succeed–and they’ve done just that! This year, all three adult basketball teams will go to the USA National Deaf Basketball tournament in St. Louis.
While this variety of programming is an amazing support system for people who are deaf or hard of hearing and their families, it does not operate without challenges. Faber says she hopes to be able to spread the programs to more parks in Chicago as time goes on so that people all over the city are able to participate. Right now programs are held at Gage Park and Horner Park, and many people are forced to travel long distances in order to participate. The deaf and hard-of-hearing adult basketball players are also currently seeking donations for their basketball teams. Many of the players are out of work, and are unable to afford tournament fees.
HOW CAN YOU HELP?
Donate! Make checks out to Chicago Parks Foundation for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Program. Your donations will ensure Faber’s basketball teams can travel to compete in various tournaments throughout the states.
Get Involved! Faber is looking for volunteers for her basketball teams who are proficient in American Sign Language. Contact Faber at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Hopes for the Future
Faber hopes to build the American Sign Language Classes so that it is available to more people throughout the city. In addition, she plans on reaching out to parents of newborns with hearing loss to make sure they feel supported and know there are options to build a community for their children. Faber wants people who are deaf or hard of hearing to know you are not alone. There are many resources offered through CPD programs that support people with hearing difficulties.