Helping deaf kids to thrive

DO YOU have fond memories of going away to school camp?

In celebration of 30 years of the North Coast Deaf Camp, a special event has been organised by the teachers who provide support for NSW Government school students who are deaf or hard of hearing.

At the end of this term, up to 60 students from Forster to Tweed Heads will attend Camp Elim in Forster, which students simply call "Deaf Camp”.

Deaf Camp began when a Coffs Coast teacher recognised the need for students, who were usually the only ones in their school to wear hearing aids or who signed, to get together with others and create a sense of deaf identity.

Since that first camp, it has gained momentum and teachers have banded together to ensure a camp happens every year - even if it meant teachers obtaining bus licences to be able to drive the students to camp.

"It's taken on a life of its own, it's bigger than any individual,” said Penny Ward, assistant principal hearing support.

"It is so important to many children and parents. So many deaf adults look back fondly on their time at Deaf Camp.

"Our Deaf Camp brings together students aged 10 to 18 years with a similar disability and provides them with an opportunity to establish or renew friendships, share experiences and participate in a variety of recreational activities.”

Since the camp's inception, service clubs and businesses from the mid-north coast and Northern Rivers have given much-appreciated support or sponsorship.

"We have had some wonderful support during the years,” Penny said.

"Quota and Lions clubs along the north coast have been involved since the beginning and the Grafton Truck Club sponsored us for many years.

"However many of the service clubs that normally pledge money have been unable to help this year because they have been busy helping those in need in the Northern Rivers with both immediate and ongoing flood relief.”

To ensure all students can attend camp, costs to families have always been subsidised. The actual cost for a student to attend is $500 but families are only required to pay $150.

"Deaf children are 10 times more likely to have hearing parents than deaf parents. These children grow up as the only deaf person in the home, and often at their school,” Penny said.

"Deaf Camp gives these students the opportunity to connect with other children just like them and does much to improve the students' self-image.”

Is your business or community/service group able to help?

Please phone Penny Ward at Toormina Public School on 66532122 or email her at penelope.j.ward@

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