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Cards Speak For Deaf Youths

February 8, 2007

Deaf youth show off the greeting cards they make at FRIEND

Ana Niumataiwalu
Friday, February 09, 2007

In many cases people with disabilities are seldom thought of and are often neglected.

That is why for a group of 12 or so deaf students, it’s a mind-set they want to erase from people’s mind.

Just ask Mitieli Kalou, who is deaf, and in sign language said more deaf people should be encouraged into the job market.

The group I’m referring to are renowned for the hand-made greeting cards they make.

They operate out of the Foundation of Rural Integrated Enterprise and Development or FRIEND, an economic empowerment non-government organisation based in Lautoka.

These students make cards for special occasions like Valentine’s Day to the everyday greeting cards.

A trip to the FRIEND centre last Tuesday, had me wondering what work the deaf students were doing and how did they communicate with each other and the hearing unimpaired.

Kalou said the work he does was great and he encouraged other deaf people to join them

These youths started in 2004, with most of those who started the project still there.

Their numbers have been bolstered by other like-minded people joining them.

Last year the youths entered the Fiji Development Bank’s small business awards and scooped the new initiative award.

The project has won international acclaim with the ICT Youth award in Tunisia.

FRIEND director Sashi Kiran said the youthscome from Tavua, Ba, Lautoka and Nadi daily to make cards for their livelihood.

She said the move to get deaf youths involved in the project came about when she saw a group of deaf youths chatting among themselves at a function. She said after talking to them, she found many of them lacked opportunities to improve their lives.

As part of the NGO’s governance program, a meeting was called which 60 deaf young attended. There a needs assessment was carried out as the hearing challenged young people spoke about challenges in communications, education and employment.

“For communication, we encouraged them to teach sign language to people themselves, something they have been doing on Saturdays for the last couple of years,” she said.

“It’s very exciting and the response from the general public has been good.

“We have been trying toupgrade their English language. They have access to other training programs we have for staff.”

Kiran said at the time many of the deaf youths had been laid off from the garment industry and the centre had to think quickly about income generation, and so the greeting cards project was born.

The project startedwith only three girls and has now grown with a large number of boys.

In an interview, young Nilesh Kumar, in sign language, said more deaf youths should be encouraged to work at the centre.

“We have a card stand in every Morris Hedstrom shopping centre and every duty free outlet. There are about 40 stands in all,” Ms Kiran said.

“In a day theyouths can make up to 80-100 cards, but that’s if they stick to just doing their tasks.

“In a week theyouths can make up to $190 a week.

“But when they start chatting they need to use their hands to communicate with each and that can slow them down.

“But they have a lot of fun doing the cards.”

Kiran said FRIEND provided the materials for the cards and everything was done at the centre to maintaining quality and consistency.


  1. June 25, 2013 at 12:12 am

    Bunfest 2011 was the most amazing one yet. Bigger venue and more room for all bunnies and strollers to walk around. When we arrived with Isabella and Brandski the 1st item on the list was Bunspa, they clipped the nails and brushed them, they looked pretty and handsome and it was fun talking to all the other bunny lovers waiting in line,what a cool idea.We were going to do the Glamour Bunshot, but Isabella being a flemish Giant she loves to run like a horsey girl she is and would not have sit still. Brandski would but he would fall asleep as he can be petted for hours and not move, he is our only boy bunny and the biggest bunny also,but i wouldn’t want them any other way.we roamed around for hours with our stoller and go to meet all the great people, Toronto Wildlife,Rat Rescue,vegeterian for life, Project Jessie, Martin’s which has the best selection of great foods for all the precious little critters. We also purchased some great cupcakes,cookies and treats, Hay from Merrybroom farms and there was just so much we must of circled about 50 miles and all worth it.Lucky we had the stroller which kept all the goodies, Martin’s food, toys and treats from rabbit Rescue as well.We also have rescue rats from Chelle’s Critter Haven and we got to meet Chelle her hubby and Emily who has the 2 cutest little guys which my Danny would not allow me to take home….but after Xmas 2011, we rescued 4 rattie biys, Sebastien,Simon,Bruno and Bobby and they are all great.Bayliss our lop ear and Brandon have a Romeo & Juliet love affair and they and all the others all play together, what a great event to meet cool people who love bunnies and all animals with all their hearts.The goody bag was the bestest also. Energizer plush bunny, pens, and rabbit pendant from the Bunny store and tidy hay and treats, what a great way to treat the bunnies and their parents.This year 2012 will be better and bigger i am sure as it was held in a great location and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. I am hoping to bring 3 of the 4 bunnies as P’tit toi a female rescue is not a socially happy bunny, she is high maintenance and a me me me , but that is ok, she doesn’t like the car, but the other 3 will enjoy another great event and i am so excited and it is only 8 months away.thank you to everyone , the Vendors, great set up, very well organized and roomy and just the most fun of it all. for those who have never seen the Rabbit Rescue calendars, they are bigger and better and show so many great bunnies and animals who need forever homes and worth the tears they bring to your eye when reading and looking at those sweet faces, just beautiful. thank you once again and see you in September,

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