They may be deaf, but the beauty they see around them isn't lost on the 35 students at the Red Cross Centre for the Deaf, who are creating beautiful handicraft and ornate straw work.
And the beauty of what they are producing is not lost on seventh-grade student Vanae Smith. Through an interpretor, she signed that she was glad she learned to sew and make mats, napkin rings and coasters. While she is uncertain whether she wants to pursue a career in craft specifically, she intends to continue practicing and learning more about craft work.
For 12-year-old Jonoah Saunders, learning to do straw work was fun. He said he hoped to learn new techniques so that he could teach others to learn one day.
After weeks of creating craft, Vanae, Jonoah and their peers were able to put their Bahamian-inspired creations using tamarind, hibiscus and dilly on display at a recent exhibition at the Ministry of Education.
The students were able to create their art and craft with a grant of $10,000 from the Ministry of Education. The money allowed for the purchase of industrial machines which allowed the students to enhance their pre-existing craft and straw work more efficiently and professionally.
"We are so proud of our students" said Red Cross Centre for the Deaf Vice-principal Sonja Rolle. "They have impressed us time and time again with their diligence to learn new things and create what they saw in their mind. From the smallest child to the oldest ones, everyone had a part to play in making the straw work and craft come together. We can't wait to see what can come of this, because the sky is really the limit for these children despite what others may think."
Sandra Sweeting, a senior mistress who trained the students in the craft and straw work, said there are plans to create a sheltered workshop where students can continue to do their creative work and sell them. This she said would be a way to help enrolled and graduated students who are skilled in the area to have a form of employment that is fun and beneficial.
"These crafts are more than just for fun. They are important because they will provide an avenue for students to be self-employed. They will be able to be more proficient in this area and not feel pressured to just fit in. This is something many of them are good at and it is a good thing to encourage them. Not everyone thinks they are capable but we are proving that they are very able through this means," said Sweeting.
The recent showcase it is hoped would be the first of many, as the students continue to advance their skills and do more creative works. Other skills they hope to be able do is learning to color straw and using different styles of plaiting to enhance their work.
The senior mistress hopes the hard work the students are showing will encourage others to keep trying hard and spark their own entrepreneurial skills.
"I hope people see the creativity that goes into the work and recognize their own abilities. This is a real lesson to be learned," said Sweeting.
People interested in seeing the work and supporting the student's continued arts and crafts program can visit the school on Gregory Street near The College of The Bahamas dorms, where their work will be on display.
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