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September 22, 2004

Go-getter jumps hurdle of deafness

From: New Zealand Herald, New Zealand - Sep 22, 2004


Mastering Mandarin with 80 per cent hearing loss is just one of Daniel Carruthers' many achievements.

Now the 29-year-old, who has two degrees and is working on a third, has a $15,000 scholarship to add to the list.

Mr Carruthers is the winner of the inaugural Quest For Excellence Scholarship from the National Foundation for the Deaf. He received the award at a ceremony in Auckland on Monday to launch Deaf Awareness Week next week.

The scholarship for post-graduate study recognises achievement by a deaf or hearing-impaired person.

Mr Carruthers was born with severe to profound hearing loss, but he did not let it stop him earning a bachelor of commerce degree in marketing in 1997.

He then went to Israel for 18 months to do volunteer work at the Bahai World Centre. This was followed by a six-month stint on St Helena, a remote island in the South Atlantic, where he was involved in community projects on conservation, teaching and promoting tourism.

A holiday in China inspired him to move there and learn Mandarin.

The task proved difficult at first, so he came back to New Zealand and enrolled in a beginners' Mandarin paper at Auckland University.

He earned an "A" grade and returned to China, enrolling in a university in the north of the country and studying the language for 1 1/2 years.

He taught English to pay for his course fees and living expenses.

Mr Carruthers wears hearing aids that improve his hearing but do not allow him to hear all sounds.

He said learning Mandarin was particularly challenging because it uses rising and falling tones. "All of them have different meanings."

He overcame the challenge of not being able to hear everything by practising saying words as much as he could. "I would just keep trying."

Graduates of Chinese-language courses at the university helped him.

Mr Carruthers also learned to read and write Mandarin.

Now fluent in the language, he has returned to NZ to do a masters degree in tourism at Otago.

He said his knowledge of Mandarin puts him in a position to have a rewarding career in tourism.

"As China is opening up and developing very rapidly, the demand for Mandarin-speaking Westerners, especially in New Zealand, will be higher and I will be poised to take advantage of those opportunities."

His masters thesis looks at the relationship between sister cities in China and New Zealand and the implications for tourism.

Mr Carruthers said he was honoured to win the scholarship, which will be awarded annually from this year.

"The scholarship has provided an opportunity to raise awareness of the challenges faced by 450,000 deaf and hearing-impaired New Zealanders every day," he said. He hoped he could inspire others with hearing loss to achieve their goals.

Mr Carruthers will return to China in two weeks to join five others on a 12,000km bike ride along the Silk Road. The ride, from Beijing to Venice, aims to raise US$400,000 to educate children in villages along the ancient trading route.

© Copyright 2004, New Zealand Herald