Wednesday, August 25, 2010

NY sign language interpreter heads to Haiti to open new deaf school

From The Democrat & Chronicle:

Tara Thorn (pictured) is packing her bags and leaving her home in Rochester to take on the daunting task of establishing a new school for the deaf in earthquake-ravaged Haiti.

The 24-year-old graduate of the National Technical Institute for the Deaf at the Rochester Institute of Technology is scheduled to fly to Port au Prince Friday to begin the new chapter and adventure in her life.

"My heart's there, and everything I want to do is there," said Thorn, who has been working as an interpreter at RIT for the past year.

Thorn graduated from RIT in 2009 and has visited Haiti twice in the past three years. She was there in June with a friend, Morgan Tucker, a fellow RIT interpreter, to lend her skills in the relief effort with the deaf community in Port au Prince.

"We actually met a lot of deaf people while we were there, and you could just see how her focus shifted from what she thought she was going to do in the States with interpreting to realizing that she wanted to do something with the deaf school in Haiti," Tucker said.

The earthquake that struck the small, poor country Jan. 12 leveled much of the Port au Prince area, including both schools serving the deaf community. Students from the schools have scattered to tent cities and camps in the countryside.

Thorn's short-term goal is to make contact with the directors of those schools and with students, find a building and, with the government, help re-start the education program for the deaf. The ultimate goal, she said, is to start a new school north of Port au Prince.

"It is beautiful and safe and there is not a school anywhere near there," Thorn said.

Thorn has family connections to Haiti. She is from Marathon, Cortland County. But her aunt and uncle, Yvonne and Joel Trimble, have lived in Haiti as missionaries for 35 years and are helping Thorn with her project.

The family connection will help Thorn's mother, Maria, sleep a little better. She said she is worried a little about her daughter's safety, but knows she is determined to move forward with her work.

"I think she is going to do fantastic," said Maria Thorn. "This is a calling that she has had and I am so proud of her. I have no doubt she will succeed."