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August 7, 2012

International Friendship Week organised by The Ear Foundation

From: The Ear Foundation - Aug 7, 2012



Building on success of last year’s event, The Ear Foundation’s 2nd International Friendship Week, sponsored by the European Association of Cochlear Implant Users (EURO-CIU), was held at St John’s School for the Deaf at Boston Spa. There were 35 deaf young people from 10 different countries represented. There were deaf young people from: England, Wales, Scotland, New Zealand, Nigeria, Finland, Austria, Germany and Norway; a young leader from the Netherlands completed the 10 different countries represented. The event was generously supported by Cochlear Europe, Advanced Bionics and MEDEL.

The week was developed to give young deaf people from across Europe and this year, further afield, the chance to meet, make friends, share the similarities and differences of their cultures and build their communication skills with other deaf young people from different countries. This was all delivered with help from leaders who have a wealth of experience in the area of deafness, from speech and language therapists to audiologists to teachers of the deaf and learning support assistants. The evaluations and the discussions on Facebook demonstrate that the goals of the week were achieved and more!

The week was filled with a variety of activities and trips designed to give all the young people a chance to experience new things, gain knowledge, acquire new skills and excel at different things. Most importantly the overriding aim of the week was to give these youngsters the chance to build relationships with peers from across Europe who share the same communication challenges.

What the adult leaders learnt this year is that communicating with deaf young people is very similar to communicating with people who speak a different language; you need patience and empathy, you need to speak slowly and clearly, you need to look at each other and to have something that you want to share. Well these young people were experts at this; from different personalities, languages and communication needs they naturally worked out for themselves the best way of communicating, whether this was talking, texting, signing or smiling. It is hard to put into words the amazing experience that this week gave the children and the leaders. So here are some of the words that the young people used:

· This was wonderful week and I learn a lot about other countries and England. I meet other very nice people, who have the same problem.
· This week is the best of my summer and my English is much better and fluidly
· The week I had taught me lots

Importantly this week has opened up their view of the world and the fact that there are deaf people everywhere:

· There are people who are deaf everywhere not just the UK
· There all the same type of people with different accents
· I appreciate more my deafness
· It made me feel I’m not the only deaf person
· I have found it easier to talk about my deafness
· Ich bin nicht die einzige (I am not the only)
· [Deafness] It doesn’t stop people from doing what they love
· That’s good to be deaf
· Make me more proud ( I was proud before) [of my deafness]
· I’m proud, my deafness and I know that I’m not the only deaf in the world
· It’s amazing, I appreciate more my deafness

Each delegation from Europe came with its own leader. Finland brought two additional young leaders who had visited last year to help with the communication challenges. By the end of the week this amazing group of young people could interact and communicate without any help!

The children built relationships and life skills that will help their development long past the event. One parent said:

“Thank you very much for the camp last week. My daughter was so happy and full of energy when she came home on Saturday. She said it was an unforgettable week. Now she has a bunch of new international friends too. These kinds of opportunities build mental strength and self confidence for the deaf kids to face the challenges in the world of the hearing.”
Another parent said:
“My daughter really needs this – look at her – she is in mainstream school, she talks but it is not the whole story. Thank you so much.”
The Ear Foundation is extremely grateful to the volunteer leaders who joined the team to make it a fantastic experience. The leaders themselves are full of praise for the week:

“It has been such a fantastic and oh so funny week, thank you! You were all so great and it's been so nice to meet you all. I've enjoyed it very, very much. It felt like a warm embrace throughout the entire week. Thank you for the amazing opportunity. I've learned so much about these children and cochlear implants (CIs), bone anchored hearing aids (BAHAs) and hearing aids!.

“It is so moving to see the change in them over the week, especially the ones who arrive with low self-esteem. They grow in confidence in their ability to communicate with everyone, even those speaking other languages. Like last year, we added the ingredients of a communication soup and the recipe works! More should have access to this great opportunity. What you provide and facilitate is unique.”

When asked about the best thing in the week, two leaders said:

“Working with the wonderful team and seeing children’s relationships grow throughout the week.”

“For me, the fact that 40 plus almost complete strangers came together and built such strong relationships, which grew throughout the week. This was evident between young people and leaders alike, and will be a memory that lasts with me forever.”



The Ear Foundation has already started planning this event for next year and St John’s School for the Deaf is already booked for 22 to 27 July 2013.

For further media information please contact: Louise Esplin, Esplin PR, Tel: 07775678237 Email: