Note: The NAD appointed three youth representatives â€“ Ryan DiGiovanni, James â€œMannyâ€ Johnson, and Melissa Malzkuhn to participate in the 4th WFD Youth Camp held July 5-12, 2007 in Segovia, Spain. Upon completion of the camp, the three are attending the World Congress of the World Federation of the Deaf. Below is their blog.
Friday July 6, 2007 - Written by Ryan DiGiovanni
â€œThree Thousand & Changeâ€
â€œWhen thereâ€™s a wayâ€¦thereâ€™s a willâ€. The enumeration of hard work over the months have come to fruition as we make the final approach into Madrid, overlooking the beautiful rustic countryside of Espana. Each of us making our own footprints separately, Melissa backpacking around Europe since June. Manny flew in hours before the scheduled bus journey from the Madrid Barajas Aero Puerto to El Espinar, making a connection in Amsterdam, Nederland he met a fellow camper from Sweden named Niklas. Ryan flew in on the 5th to socialize with the savvy Australians and New Zealanders with a cultural lesson in mind.
Orientation at the Camp
Leaving the warm sunshine state of Florida on a beautiful summer day was a hard thing to do but it was time for Ryan to leave his own world and embark on a journey to another. Being in love, getting married a week before the WFD Youth Camp, making a 12 hour Transatlantic flight from Los Angeles to Amsterdam is no feat. Thatâ€™s Manny Johnson for you. Hailing from California, Manny has been involved in Youth Programs in America. Melissa â€œMezâ€ carries with her a cornucopia of cultural experience with her worldly travels from Auckland to Stockholm to Barcelona.
Opening Camp Ceremony
Saturday July 7, 2007 - Written by Manny Johnson
The first full day of camp began with a warming breakfast that brought out peopleâ€™s personalities a little more than the night before. The morning was filled with luminaries involved with WFD and Congress. We embraced Markku Jokinenâ€™s presentation about the Deaf Associative Movement.
WFD President Markku Jokinen addresses the Youth
Then Mr. Feliciano Sola Limia spoke about the benefits of attending the WFD Congress and how proud he was able to allow all camp participants attend the Congress at no charge. We are all fortunate to get this opportunity to attend a Congress full of the worldâ€™s leaders and learn of their methodology in their respective countries.
Lunch brought out some discussions about the Deaf Associative Movement as well as what the schedule would be like at the Congress. Afternoon brought various activities and games that showed us all each personâ€™s name, sign name, and country sign. We have to tell you that our brains were so overloaded that it made it impossible to remember more than just a few.
Lunch at the Cafeteria
We had the week ahead to remember more. Dinner was more lively as people got more curious about the origin of their name signs and country signs. The sun did not set until about 10:30pm and due to the newness of everything and 41 countries being there, we did not go to bed until about 3-4 am.
Campers Gone Wild
Sunday July 8, 2007 â€“ Written by Melissa Malzkuhn
The first two days slipped by quickly, as we progressed from simple name-introductions to deeper and meaningful conversations, ranging from anecdotes to life conditions of deaf youth. On the third day, we had a chance to exchange information through giving presentations. Altogether nine different countries had an opportunity to present: Mongolia, Germany, Sweden and Finland, Italy, Malta, Argentina, Japan and USA.
Germanyâ€™s Presentation on their Deaf Youth
The majority of the presentations centered on the functioning and operations of deaf youth associations. Japan was outstanding with their visual media, where they broke from the pack and talked of todayâ€™s problems facing deaf Japanese: the decline of deaf schools, isolation in the workplace, and overall daily oppression deaf people face on their abilities. Japan ended their presentation with a quite impromptu little dance, which had all of us cheering.
Mongolia stood out too, by a feverously energetic Mongolian, Bassandorj Davaanyam, who is a leading activist for their deaf youth association. He described in eloquent detail on how they established their association, found a way to continue funding by having deaf youths work on various types of art, where they would sell for a sustainable amount of money, and reap a small margin of profit to keep funding the association costs. It was compelling as they showed pictures of Mongolian art, ranging from traditional carvings to more edgier and abstractive paintings.
For USA, I gave a presentation titled â€œGallaudet Protest & Politicsâ€ where I pretty much summarized the problems and the reasons why we protested in the first place. Gallaudet, itself, didnâ€™t need to be explained as the entire camp already knew about it, and around half of them followed the protests with curiosity but most of them still found themselves muddling through vague information. I explained the timeline, search process, and the exact reasons why and how the protest grew tremendously and got the worldâ€™s attention.
In wrapping up my presentation, I showed them the film, â€œTaraâ€™s Storyâ€ which was well received, and after the presentation a quite number of camp participants from all around the world (India, Slovakia, Poland, Malaysia, to name a few), came up to me and shared personal comments. Most of them found themselves inspired that a young person, someone like Tara Holcomb, had the guts and courage to stand up to someone in a high position and speak her mind on what is right. They shared their own frustrations with their own countries and wish they could tap into the courage and the passion that we had with us during the Gallaudet protests, which made me realize a few things. Youth activism is a very powerful tool, because we would take bold and drastic steps to get the changes we need very much.
Summing this day up, after our presentations and exchange of information, we once again faced the stark reality of deaf youth in the world: there are much needed changes to be made. And we must act now. Itâ€™s today, not tomorrow that you should try to aim for a difference.
Florijan from Albania introducing his country
Monday July 9, 2007 â€“ Written by Ryan DiGiovanni
As usual Ryan got up at 7:10 in the morning for his twelve km jog (the American equivalent of eight miles) to see the quaint town of San Rafael and the sunrise in the Espana countryside. On his trek, he ran from the Camp to the foothills of the surrounding â€œmontanaâ€ (Spanish for Mountain) and back to the camp in time for breakfast. Manny and Mez awoke with excitement for the dayâ€™s plans ahead of them, for the camp was making an excursion to Segovia to sightsee and partake in the cultural aspects of a Romania Castellan town.
We had a unique opportunity on our trek around Segovia to capture the essence of a quaint countryside town with Romanian roots. Ryan procured some souvenirs for his family at the end of the day, Manny took tons of pictures. We returned to the camp for dinner then we had another cultural activity where we danced to the tune of the Campâ€™s mantra.
Tuesday July 10, 2007 â€“ Written by Manny Johnson
The day began with Robertoâ€™s presentation about Spanish Deaf Youth Associationâ€¦ more detailsâ€¦ We ate a quick lunch before loading on the two buses to head over to team-building out in the back country of Segovia. We joined our eight respective groups that were divided up on the first day of camp and created group names for the competition. Mannyâ€™s group went with â€œMama Miaâ€
Mama Mia Group
Ryanâ€™s group came up with â€œDeaf SWATâ€, and Mezâ€™s somehow named their group â€œScreamanos.â€
The activities were awesome as we did the Bungee Cord Run, Archery, Web Challenge, Minefield, Water Race, Stilt Race, Human-Sized Foosball, ATV (4-Wheeling) Race, Water Balloon Fight, and more.
For each activity, the workers would score us on how well we did the challenge and the points would be included in our final tally for the week to see which of the eight groups worked the best together. There were many serious participants including us that were there to win and learn about how to communicate and think over various cultures, backgrounds, and language, which made the competition even more difficult and yet rewarding. About five hours later, our exhausted groups went back to camp to refresh with a late dinner and chilling out at the bar/relaxation room in the compound that we were staying at.