Thu | Dec 2, 2021

Deaf earn cash from trash

Published:Tuesday | July 13, 2021 | 12:06 AMAsha Wilks/Gleaner Intern
Jamar Patterson lays the mould with recycled paper on a mat during a training programme for unattached deaf youths. The Jamaica Association for the Deaf has launched a training programme to make innovative paper products using recycled paper. The training
Jamar Patterson lays the mould with recycled paper on a mat during a training programme for unattached deaf youths. The Jamaica Association for the Deaf has launched a training programme to make innovative paper products using recycled paper. The training programme was held at the Lister Mair-Gilby High School for the Deaf in St Andrew on Thursday.
Jamar Patterson collects dissolved recycled paper in a mould during a training programme for unattached deaf youths.
Jamar Patterson collects dissolved recycled paper in a mould during a training programme for unattached deaf youths.
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Twelve deaf youths aged 18-25 are undergoing training in the paper bindery industry, developing key skills to build financial independence while promoting environmentally sustainable production.

Registered with ‘Deaf Craft – Paper Trash to Environmental Treasures’, the youngsters are schooled in the creation of paper-based products for sale. The options include gift bags, envelopes, gift cards, and gift boxes – all from waste paper that is donated by neighbouring offices and recycled.

With World Skills Day being celebrated on July 15, the deaf-community stakeholders are shining a spotlight on the creative potential among the disabled.

The initiative utilises plantable paper that is embedded with flowering seeds to facilitate growth once they are discarded into the earth. Through paper recycling, JAD Binders, a subsidiary of the non-profit Jamaica Association for the Deaf, is seeking to reduce its carbon footprint, said Deniese Badroe, director of business development.

The programme, which is administered by the Environmental Foundation of Jamaica and funded by the Forestry Department, aims to expand JAD Binders’ product line and workforce.

With quarterly funding of approximately $6 million, provisions are made for meals and a transportation stipend for the deaf.

The trainees receive six hours of work experience for two days per week at the Lister Mair-Gilby High School for the Deaf. Badroe says that the organisation is in the process of collaborating with HEART Trust/NSTA, which will aid them in getting certification.

Badroe urges Jamaicans to support what she calls “a worthy cause” because the training programme is finding employment for deaf youths.

Supermarkets like the Jamaican Teas-owned Shoppers Delite and quick-service food industry outfits like Restaurant Associates of Jamaica have chipped in to aggressively recruit from the deaf community.

Jamar Patterson, 24, is one of the beneficiaries.

Patterson, who is deaf, uses a walker for mobility and lives with and depends on his mother, who is a nurse, as well as his grandmother and brother, to take care of him.

The tech junkie earns from his side hustle of fixing computers but does not have formal qualifications in the field.

Patterson has certification in sewing and has worked at HEART, repairing books.

When the programme ends, he hopes to become financially independent to assist his mother, who has been home for more than a year because of COVID-19.

‘I want to learn’

Marlene Mahabir, 36, who is an exception to the programme’s target audience, has travelled from Westmoreland to Kingston to enrol and is in search of job opportunities.

Mahabir currently depends on her sister, with whom she lives.

Her desire is simple but profound: “I want to learn,” Mahabir told The Gleaner.

She, too, has no formal qualifications.

Mahabir is aware of the levels of discrimination that the deaf community faces.

“We are not dumb, so encourage and support us,” said Mahabir.

Jamaica has a jobless rate of just under nine per cent, but persons who are deaf are more vulnerable to unemployment, as they face institutional and cultural barriers that are pervasive.

That is a concern for Juen Campbell, director of social services at JAD.

“They are significantly marginalised because they need to be facilitated by interpreters. Many business people see it as an additional expense and don’t want to facilitate them,” said Campbell.

Badroe is hoping to enlist more support from corporate donors to purchase products.

“We have a lot of deaf youth who need the job, and once we get the orders, then we would be able to employ them to fill those orders,” said Badroe.

editorial@gleanerjm.com