Somali Refugee Children Connect with Deaf Students on a Basketball Court


Somali Refugee Children Connect with Deaf Students on a Basketball Court

Buffalo, NY - Two different cultures have found common ground in a classroom, on a basketball court and on a playing field. Newly-arrived Somali children are participating in “Say Yes Buffalo,” a program sponsored by Buffalo Public Schools and the City of Buffalo, designed to promote English literacy. St. Mary’s School for the Deaf, a comprehensive educational program for deaf and hard of hearing students, has been collaborating with the Somali “Say Yes” program this summer.

One may wonder how these two important educational programs found each other. Dr. Christopher Kerr, CEO and CMO for The Center for Hospice & Palliative Care (Hospice Buffalo), has diverse philanthropic interests. He is not only a Board of Trustee for St. Mary’s School for Deaf, but he is a farmland provider for Somali refugees, among other interests. Dr. Kerr reached out to St. Mary’s School for the Deaf Superintendent, Timothy Kelly, and the two developed an outline for a partnership. Students from both programs have been spending time together, educationally and recreationally, this summer.

St. Mary’s School for the Deaf Superintendent, Tim Kelly, said, “There are more similarities than differences between the cultures, particularly when it comes to kids. Language barriers disappear when students are engaged in cooperative learning opportunities.”
Teacher of the Deaf, Jim Carmody, has been coordinating weekly games with the Somalis and St. Mary’s students. “The collaboration between the “Say Yes” program and our students define what teaching is: learning at its best and in its simplest form. Anytime you can take two completely different populations and bring them together to learn about their individuality, each other’s language and each other’s culture, it is a great experience. We have deaf students, students from Somalia and peer students working together as a whole. Through physical education activities, we get the opportunity to socialize and compete on the same level, regardless of communication or cultural differences.”
Dr. Kerr was awe-struck, “Here you have two community-based organizations with entirely different missions coming together. And sure enough, the children -- who we thought had little in common -- find harmony and friendship despite differences in culture and language. It’s beautiful to watch.”

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