Born hard of hearing and the child of two deaf parents, the Rev. Debbie Buchholz is pastor of a church for the deaf, the Kansas City Star reports.
Now she is helping seven men and women, all recent immigrants to Kansas City, Kan. and refugees from the Himalayan country of Bhutan, plus one from Myanmar. Most of them have spent years in a refugee camp in Nepal.
And all of them are deaf. Nepal has one of the highest rates of deafness in the world, due to infections, genetics and lack of health care.
None of the refugees had ever been to school, arriving in the United States illiterate in English as well as their own language, having never heard it.
“Just to be an immigrant is difficult,” Debbie told the Star. “These people were born in a country with political unrest. Then they got to live in unhealthy conditions in a refugee camp. Then they are brought over here — and to be deaf … Think of what a scary and lonely place that would be to be in.”
But she has seen them blossom once they begin to learn basic sign language. “When they are in the room together, I can see the stars in their eyes,” she said.
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