National Deaf Youth Camp returns nearly 10 years later

The last National Deaf Youth Camp was hosted in Napier in 2008 and since then there have been very limited opportunities for Deaf Youth in New Zealand to attend youth camps. There was an opportunity for Auckland Deaf Society to take the lead and organise a National Deaf Youth Camp almost 10 years later.

Group activityThe NZSL Board supported Auckland Deaf Society with a grant of $12,811 in the second round of the NZSL Fund to organise a National Deaf Youth Camp, led by two project leaders along with a team of 10 NZSL fluent users, who together, worked towards the success of the camp.

The 4th National Deaf Youth Camp was held in January 2017 at YMCA Camp Adair in Hunua, South Auckland. Camp attendees were young Deaf people between the ages of 16 to 30 from different areas in New Zealand and from a variety of backgrounds, ethnicities and identity.

The aim of the camp was to foster leadership skills, enhance Deaf identity and pride in Deaf culture, and to grow in confidence and ability to follow one’s personal dreams. Inspiring workshops were provided by prominent Deaf community leaders, Chris Blum who was instrumental in setting up the ‘Friends of Young Deaf’ initiative in New Zealand, Craig Crawley from the United Kingdom who shared his knowledge around Leadership and Daniel Greenwood discussed community growth and leadership styles. There was also a discussion forum with the youth participants.

The camp brought the diverse groups of Deaf youth together to create strong networks and to strengthen NZSL in young Deaf people from mainstream environments. By the end of the week, participants who once did not know each other at the start of the week, left the camp as a ‘family’ with motivation to go after their dreams.

Feedback from the participants showed that everyone had increased their self-confidence and wanted to attend another camp again, but next time as a leader instead. They were willing to get leadership training in order to be able to lead at future camps. It was felt that there needed to be more opportunities for Deaf youth in New Zealand to gain the necessary skills and experience to become leaders.

The camp made an impact on the participants who felt at home when with the others, and a few left the camp crying. That is what is unique about Deaf camps. There is always a sense of belonging for everyone, regardless of background, hearing level, or NZSL fluency. These kids just need to feel like they belong, and when they do, they all thrive.

The volunteers working behind the scenes have been inspired to do more for Deaf youth in New Zealand.

Group activity on planks

Chris Blum presenting about FYD

Craig Crowley from the UK presenting about Leadership

Leaders group photo

Participants group photo

Water activity

High ropes activity

High ropes activity

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