At the 2018 Oscars, ‘The Silent Child’ won the Academy Award for Best Short Film.
The film centres round a 4 year old called called Libby who lives in silence until her social worker teaches her how to communicate through sign language. Rachel Shenton wrote the screenplay and in her acceptance speech she touched on her motivation and hopes for the film,
“This is happening. Millions of children all over the world live in silence and face communication barriers and, particularly, access to education. Deafness is a silent disability.”
According to the World Federation of the Deaf, there are over 70 million people in the world who use sign language as their first language. As Rachel said in her speech, the impacts of this silent disability are huge, particularly for children and their education.
The Methodist Church in Ireland, through World Development & Relief (WDR), has the privilege of being part of challenging this. We partner with the Father Andeweg Institute for the Deaf (FAID) in Lebanon, who deliver education to children who are deaf or hard of hearing.
FAID work with deaf children, regardless of ethnicity or religion, and have been a particularly important place for children from deprived backgrounds. In recent years, due to the war in Syria, they have enrolled a number of refugee children. As well as receiving an education, students at FAID are taught to speak and to lip-read, and are equipped with essential life skills which help them break down the obstacles the deaf community face.
Rachel Shenton wrote this movie from personal experience as her dad lost his hearing and spent the last 2 years of his life profoundly deaf.
On The Silent Child website she writes how she “noticed how easy it was for people to leave [my dad] out” when he lost his hearing, and how everyday tasks suddenly become difficult. FAID see this reality and work to ensure their students don’t have to feel ‘left out’.
To achieve this, their work continually expands and evolves. In September, FAID introduced their job-training programme, whereby former students are trained as teachers for the deaf. This programme benefits both the trainee teachers in terms of qualifications, whilst also multiplying the impact FAID can have by reaching more deaf students.
It is partly due to the generosity of WDR supporters that FAID can continue to support these children and to improve the quality of their lives. Through their work, the children have new opportunities and possibilities open to them. There are a number of ways you can partner with FAID and make this the new reality for many more children in Lebanon; you can donate any second-hand hearing aids which can be used by the school, you can pray or give financially, and also make sure to sign up to receive news from all our WDR partners, including FAID.
Why should anyone be silent?