There is no official population count as to how many deaf people are in Haiti, but some research shows that the number is anywhere from 18,000 to 93,000. The Voodoo religion, coupled together with the lack of education, especially about genetics and disease, causes many Haitians to think that a disability is the result of some type of judgment. For example, in our area a baby was born with albinism. The little girl’s relatives said that it was a curse from God because her mother hates white people. Now they all see the baby as something evil. Likewise, over the 9 years we have been in Haiti we have heard of handicapped children being denied medical treatment because they are viewed as worthless and as a drain on the family income. Many times children with disabilities are kept hidden from people because the family is embarrassed. This is one reason it is difficult to get an accurate count of people with disabilities. After spending time in the outlying areas of where we live, we have located some deaf individuals. The sad thing is that these children and adults are referred to as simply “deaf person” and rarely does anyone use their name in referring to them. One lady had to look at the birth certificate to remember her nephew’s name (both parents were deceased and he lives with his aunt).
The Bible says in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Notice that he did not stipulate only the healthy ones.
For several years God has been increasing our burden to reach out to the deaf in our area of Haiti. This past Wednesday my family and I began a deaf outreach in our community. We had 14 deaf people come to our first class. Several came with hearing family members. None of them had any training nor did any of them know anything about sign language. All of them have crude hand gestures that their families use to somewhat communicate with them. We began by giving all of them a sign name. After that we taught them the numbers 1 through 10 and the signs for different animals that are common here in Haiti like chicken, goat, cow, etc. By the end of the 4 hour class it was amazing to see the “light come on” look when they realized that we were talking to them directly with their sign name. My wife signed “Henry Claude stand up.” And he stood with pride and a sense of worth.
Pray for us as we go forth in this new ministry. Just like with a child, we have to start with the basics. It is our goal for them to be able to read and write with the ultimate goal of sharing the gospel with them and see them trust Christ as their personal Savior.