Deaf youngsters will have the opportunity to sharpen their communication skills this summer and have fun doing so at Deaf Camp STX.
"Life can be hard for kids with disabilities,” Norma Lee Oldfield, camp founder and director, said. “I’d like to change that one summer at a time."
The plans for this first year of the camp are to get the deaf and hard of hearing youth together with others interested in visual language. It may include parents, siblings, friends, neighbors, teachers and other community members to build a signing community around the deaf and hard-of-hearing children.
Oldfield, a nationally certified sign language interpreter and education specialist with the Department of Education on St. Croix, believes students need to practice communication skills during summer break or they could loose what they have gained. A regular summer camp for a deaf child is the same as a classroom they are mainstreamed into, she said, which can be exhausting for deaf children who can’t hear or talk to their classmates.
Oldfield said the camp is scheduled to open in mid-June and will be held at Discovery Grove, which is an experiential learning camp retreat. The camp will bring together deaf and hard-of-hearing students in grades two through 12 to participate in activities from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday, for six weeks this summer.
Oldfield said the focus of the camp is also to explore Crucian culture, cooking, farming, history and the local environment.
“There are pieces seriously missing for the deaf students,” Oldfield said “They don’t understand all of their cultural connections.”
Oldfield said the camp will partner with community organizations to provide local history and island culture. Participants will tour the St. George Village Botanical Garden to learn about local flora. A trip to Ridge to Reef Farms is planned to learn sustainable farming techniques. Local artists and Crucian chefs will teach folklore and culinary culture. The students will get involved volunteering with the Cruzan Cowgirls horse rescue program. The campers will get swimming lessons and an introduction to sailing, will tour Fort Frederik and Fort Christiansvaern, and learn the history of St. Croix.
Oldfield is looking for Deaf/HOH adults to groom Deaf/HOH teenagers as camp counselors. She is hoping to recruit student teachers from the University of the Virgin Islands to participate as mentors and instructors.
“I would love to have volunteer storytellers, artists, yoga instructors, gardeners, anyone who has an art to share to join us,” Oldfield said. “These kids deserve to know their history, their island and their communities.”
Oldfield said the camp needs funding and support from the community to help children with tuition and transportation. The camp is under the umbrella of the St. Croix Community Foundation.
Donations are being accepted at: https://www.facebook.com/DeafCampSTX.
Those interested can call 928-853- 3795 for more information or send email to NormaLeeOldfield@hotmail.com