My Reflection of Summer Camp: Friendships & Empowerment
By Janno Lim
Before I met my friends who are deaf and hard-of-hearing here in Vancouver, I was totally lost. Growing up, I had difficulties communicating with my hearing peers due to my hearing loss. Conversations always ended with frustration. I often heard “never mind” after I asked for repetition. Sadly, I had a hard time making friends as people didn’t understand the struggles I had endured trying to communicate effectively and share feelings. Over time, I was ostracized by my own peers, became more socially awkward, lonely and less confident in myself.
However, things completely changed when I met Bowen, Tasha, Hart, Nicole, Joy and others. They are deaf and hard-of-hearing just like me. They understood the struggles I faced. They were the ones who pushed me to come out of my own shell. Spending time with them, I started to feel a sense of belonging and acceptance of my own hearing loss. Together, we formed a social support group so that we can connect. One of the biggest highlights is the IFYHOHYP summer camp in the Netherlands. We took this as a great opportunity to meet others from other countries who are in the same niche as us.
At the camp, we learned so much from one another through cooperative games, group trips around the Netherlands and educational workshops where we shared our thoughts and life skills. The biggest take away from this camp was lasting friendships. We all share similar life experiences, laughing at our own embarrassing stories and sharing tears about our own personal struggles. Friendships are built on similar identities and life experiences. Our friendships were strengthened with social gatherings and biggest of all, at the Efteling theme park where we shared laughter and joy taking rides and eating food together.
My most memorable one was when we held hands together (literally!) so that we would not get lost in the crowd and to make sure everyone was safe. Together, we did so many daring, exciting things. For example, after the camp, we went as a group to Amsterdam. One night, we walked as a tightly knit “family” to brace the sketchy crowds in the seedy Red Light District. We cautiously looked after one another. Thank God, we were safe yet we had so much fun.
As a team, we are empowered. Even after the camp was over, we kept in touch with one another in person and online. The important thing is that we came home as more positive and confident young adults. We learned so much to advocate for ourselves and break down barriers with whatever life throws at us.
Being deaf and hard-of-hearing is not bad at all, what we need is to work on communication and the effort to understand one another. With the right people, we build strong friendships as well as confidence and empowerment in ourselves that will help us move further. The summer camp and our social group are great examples that will enable us to build personal life skills that will bring us a better career, relationships and a positive spirit.