Start 2009 with hope.

There’s a lot of buzz in the media about how nonprofits are struggling financially because donations have decreased – way decreased. This translates, of course, to fewer services provided by nonprofits – which has affected organizations in the deaf community, some to extremes.

So, I figured I’d help start 2009 with hope, and get the word out about some of the charities/nonprofit organizations that I think are just great. In no particular order, I’m keeping a close eye on five causes this year, and I hope to support each in some way. Maybe you can do the same.

Discovering Deaf Worlds: I’ve worked with Discovering Deaf Worlds (www.discoveringdeafworlds.com) the past year on their newsletter, and I have been nothing but astounded by the incredible stories from this non-profit organization. Discovering Deaf Worlds founders Dave Justice and Christy Smith have gone off – way off – the beaten path and discovered so many unexplored corners of the world. By doing so, they’re bringing about awareness not only for people like me, but also for people in those corners who have no idea of their opportunities as deaf individuals. Justice and Smith are giving us all hope for a future.

Domestic violence programs: As a childhood domestic violence survivor, I really wish programs like Abused Deaf Women Advocacy Services (www.adwas.org) and Deaf Hope (www.deaf-hope.org) existed when I was a little girl. It’s only by sheer determination that Mom and I got out of the situation we were in. Two years after we left, at the age of 10, I watched The Burning Bed starring Farrah Fawcett, sobbing because it was the first time I had ever understood  the hell we went through. The movie also made me realize, for the first time in my life, that everything that had happened wasn’t our fault and that we weren’t alone.

Even today, 25 years later, thousands of deaf women and men find themselves in dangerous situations – and not so many are as lucky as Mom and I were. We got out. And so many don’t. Domestic violence survivors – and victims – are often the most ordinary people – like me – who you’d never guess were in such situations. Even today, people gasp when they learn what my mother and I had to live with for a decade.

Support  domestic violence agencies, locally and nationally, that serve deaf people. You might just help spare a child’s life.

Global Reach Out Initiative
: A young organization, Global Reach Out (GRO) is going places – figuratively and literally. As its website (www.globalreachout.org) states, GRO “seeks to serve as a launching pad for the world’s young deaf role models to work together, learn from one another, and inspire others.” GRO accomplishes this by encouraging deaf youth to come together in a delegation and address social issues limiting deaf populations’ opportunities to grow.

GRO also says, “We believe in the domino effect: if one delegate is inspired to work towards social change, many more will follow. Inspiration is contagious!” Indeed.

National Association of the Deaf:  I’ve been a long-time member – and yes, a long-time critic – of the National Association of the Deaf (www.nad.org). But it wasn’t until I served on the board for just over a year that I appreciated fully how much work is put into the NAD. As the oldest civil rights organization for deaf people in the United States, the NAD is a powerful advocacy and lobbying machine, despite what naysayers have said and will say. Give the NAD a couple of dollars. Even a buck goes a long way. Better yet, join as a member.

Rescue programs or shelters caring for deaf animals: Having had two deaf dogs, I can’t emphasize enough how crucial it is to rescue deaf animals, whether dogs, cats or others. Thousands of deaf animals are abandoned and killed each year simply because they’re deaf – and this tugs at my heart in so many ways. Their experiences, and fate, are so similar to our experiences as a deaf community. Besides, who better to understand deaf pets than deaf people?

One such program is at Deaf Animal Row (deafanimalrow.blogspot.com). Contact your local shelter or rescue program and see if they have deaf animals needing homes or support. Then share what you can, whether it’s a blanket, treats, money, or best of all, a home.

We have a new president elected on a platform of change and hope. Let’s be part of his platform and help change this world a little at a time and give  people – or animals –  hope.

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