Minna Maria

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

R E A D ! !


Frontrunners is an International Deaf Youth Leadership Programme based in Denmark.

In this 15-week programme, 12 young people were selected from 10 different countries worldwide.

The programme was created to empower Deaf Youth on an international level, so they could go back to their own countries armed with information and leadership.

This programme has covered issues within the Deaf Community including Deaf Culture, History, Identity, Globalisation and Developing Countries. Many internationally acclaimed guest speakers were invited to share their knowledge and research. Frontrunners has given workshops to various groups and created a website as a tool to disseminate knowledge.

You can view the Frontrunners website at:

One of the hot topics in the course was Deaf Activism. Activism is an intentional action to bring about social or political change.

We had many questions including:
· Why are Deaf Clubs and Deaf schools closing worldwide?
· Why are only 2% of Deaf worldwide being educated in sign language?
· Why is there so little research into the ethics and implications of cochlear implantation?
· Does the medical profession have in-depth awareness of the Deaf community as a cultural and linguistic minority?
· Does the medical profession have an ongoing dialogue with their national Deaf associations?

· How does the medical profession promote the Deaf community and the cultural model in comparison to their views?

More and more Deaf children worldwide are being educated in the mainstream without access to education in sign language. More and more Deaf children do not know about the history, values and culture of the Deaf community.

In Denmark, the situation is dire.


The majority of these children do not have access to sign language. Other countries in Europe have illustrated similar statistics.

To make it clear, Frontrunners are not against cochlear implants or the people that have them in general. What we were most concerned about is:

Why are doctors discouraging the use of sign language for Deaf children who have cochlear implants, except if the child has further disabilities?

Doctors say that they are not saying no to sign language. But they believe that if a deaf child gets a cochlear implant, it is best the child does not learn sign language as they have to get as much speech as possible. But it is a common misconception that if a deaf child gets a cochlear implant, they automatically become hearing. The deaf child is still a Deaf child with unique needs. If this child knows sign language, they can have access to their culture and heritage.

As a result of these questions, we decided to stage a non-violent protest in the audiology and cochlear implant unit at a local hospital on the 17th of November 2005.
According to the model of activism, there are two levels of activity. 1) Through lobbying and dialogue. 2) Through Direct action.

While many of us are involved in, and support lobbying at an organisational level, we felt that if we caught the doctors off guard through a non-violent protest, we would find out more about how the medical profession really views Deaf people.
We had the support of Tomato Lichy, a Deaf Activist from the United Kingdom, who has been involved in several protests towards the recognition of British Sign Language. Tomato also brought along his partner Paula, and their Deaf 10 month old baby Molly.


10.30AM: Tomato Lichy told us we were going to stage a non-violent protest

12.30PM: Preparation of Sign Language Banner and “Tegnsprog” / Sign Language flyers

1.15PM: 13 of us took a bus to the hospital faculty.

On the Bus: Creation of our Protest Song

2.15PM: Entry into the Doctor’s office.


We had an aim: gain access to the hospitals senior doctor’s office and to stay in it for two hours.

We asked to see the head doctor, and were shown into her upstairs office straightaway.

We sat down peacefully in her office and put up flyers on the walls saying “Sign Language!!!” and “Tegnsprog!!!” (Danish for Sign Language). We had smiles on our faces and signed away among ourselves.
The doctor said she did not know sign language. There were no indications of any sign language or Deaf culture materials anywhere in the hospital. She looked bewildered and confused.

Some of us went downstairs and handed out the flyers to all the staff in the offices. Others put up the 5 metre sign language banner in the upstairs hallway.

A staff member who knew a little Danish Sign Language came into the room and tried to communicate with us. We asked for a qualified sign language interpreter.


2.30PM: Our second aim was to see if an interpreter would be provided to facilitate communication.

While we knew that it might be seen as “unreasonable” to demand an interpreter on the spot, it was an attempt to make the doctors aware of sign language.

We were told that the interpreting service was closed. It was 2.30pm in the afternoon! We reminded them that interpreters should always be available for emergencies.

The head doctor got agitated and repeatedly told us she was late for an appointment. She then left the room. Two audiologists came in.

3PM: The staff realised they could use pen and paper to communicate with us. This was 45 minutes after we had entered the office.

The staff members wanted to make an appointment to talk with us at a later date. They showed us a diary, and pointed repeatedly to a page in the diary. This is fair enough.

However imagine this.
1) Talk later, at a scheduled meeting. Exchange information and theories about deaf people and Deaf Culture. Try and understand each other. After the meetings, each group goes back to do their own business.
2) Demonstrate normal conversation and interaction in a non violent protest. Plant seeds of awareness in the doctors’ heads. By them seeing us and being unable to communicate, they can realise how we really feel.

98% of Danish Deaf children are being implanted with little access to sign language and we do not have time to wait. Doctors have to change their attitudes towards the people they are working on.


Our aim was to see if the doctors and the staff had good awareness of Deaf culture and Deaf people.

Did the staff really understand the people they were working for?

We introduced our Deaf baby to the staff members and told them that the 10 month old knew a total of 20 signs.

Some staff members came into the room and took down the signs we had put up. We put the signs back up.

The staff members at the hospital had stopped doing all their work. They stood around in the hall outside the office watching us. Funnily enough, some of them were laughing and pointing at us!

The staff threatened to call the police if we did not leave the office. As our first aim was to stay in the office for two hours, we declined. It was important to stay long enough, so we gave the doctors something to think about.

3.15PM: We signed our Protest Song to the staff. Our faces were full of smiles and our hands full of passion. We signed with energy and force, showing the poetic beauty of our language.

The staff reacted strongly to us signing the song. Their faces became more agitated and their movements more frantic. This was strange, because we were just sitting peacefully in the office, and trying to make conversation with the doctors.

3.45PM: The police arrived.

The police were confused as to which country we came from. At first, they thought we were from the United States of America because one of us had a Gallaudet University sweatshirt on. They later realised that we were from different countries.
One of us had a video camera. The police took this person away for questioning. The police then formatted (erased) all the video footage on the camera.

We ran out of chairs so one of us sat down on the head doctor’s chair. A hard of hearing staff member came into the room and ordered this person off the chair. Just because the person had sat down on the doctor’s chair, the person was taken away for questioning by the police.

Because emotions were high, a staff member declared that we had “no brains.” If the staff knew enough sign language, we would have told them that several of us have university degrees.
By now, the staff knew what our intentions were, and our attitudes towards sign language. All of a sudden, the hard of hearing woman asked the mother of the Deaf baby if she had hearing friends. The answer was “of course!” The woman then asked “Do your hearing friends sign?” The reply was “of course!” So the woman said “Ok, if you and your baby get a Cochlear Implant, you can ‘hear’ them! You can hear cars coming!” The differing perspectives are clear here.

One by one, the police took the rest of us away. They took down our names and where we came from. They searched us and erased all the photos we had taken. A police officer searched the messages on a mobile phone belonging to one of us.

5.15PM: We were finally allowed to leave. When we walked outside, two women were walking in. We found out that these two women were interpreters. They had come three hours after we had arrived.


The doctors told the police that we had:
· Taken pictures of private files and journals
· Stopped a doctor leaving to do a cochlear implant operation on a deaf person

We had not done any of this! All the way through the protest, we had not acted out violently, or destroyed property.

It was agreed by all that the protest was one of the best experiences we’ve ever had.

Some comments:

“My identity, who I am as a Deaf person came into clear focus at that moment. At that moment, my life had meaning.”

“Deaf people have been oppressed throughout history. Eugenics… the sterilization campaign…forced oralism in education…the prohibition of Deaf-Deaf marriages…and now the race to eliminate the Deaf gene. Society simply does not want to see and accept us as a culture and a linguistic minority. This protest is an attempt to make doctors look at us as a people of the eye, rather than as a medical problem.”

The hospital has agreed not to take any action against us. However, it was said that the doctors were deeply traumatized by the experience. They had asked if Deaf people really felt like this.

The aim of this press release is to share with the world what a bit of action can do.

A couple of weeks later in one of the leading Danish newspapers Poltikien, the Head of the Audio Pedagogy Unit at the Copenhagen Region Hospital of Gentofte talked about doctors views towards discouraging the use of sign language. While they have respect of Sign Language, they believe that it will not assist children with cochlear implants.

Sadly, we do not have any video footage or photos to show what really happened in the office.

However, it is hoped that this action will assist in raising awareness about this complicated issue. It is evident that the medical profession needs to find ways to work in partnership with the Deaf community.

The aim of the Frontrunners programme was to provide us with the means to change the world.

Let’s hope that we can start.

For all the Deaf people…in history and in the future.


Monday, November 14, 2005


Yippee, last Friday we went to Vejle for shopping, shopping and then back here for dinner. After dinner we, five of us, went to Århus to visit a Deaf Club by car which took about one hour. It was a poker-night, we did not play, we watched and talked with other Deaf people. Århus’ Deaf Club was interesting, especially because there also had many hearing people and interpreters. I’ve never saw them in Copenhagen’s Deaf Club. But it’s ok. Then we drove back here at Castberggaard at night.

Yesterday on Saturday, I cleaned my room the whole afternoon. I took a warm shower and ate good dinner, yum. Afterwards I went to another house with others Frontrunners and the DDU’s Board. We talked and talked.

Today, on Sunday… I wrote in my blogs and e-mails all day believe it or not! But after lunch I visited DDU’s meetings for an hour. It was too interested to see what kind of their youth system works. It was a very different from Finland’s system. Then I went to the computer and typed and typed.

Yeah, I am fine. I have been here already almost ten weeks; it means 2 months and 2 weeks. Huh, time is running too fast that I can’t believe that now is November, soon it is XMAS! Here, there is no snow, heh. I enjoy here a lot! Lots to study, and at the same time I am doing also some for EUDY and FDYC, e-mailing and e-mailing after school everyday. So time ran faster because one day = morning - afternoon is school and afterwards I worked on e-mails and then evening began à zzzz.

Tomorrow is Monday = starting a new week, Joe Murray and Tomato Lichy are coming here… Really interesting to hear them!!! Then next, A SPECIAL WEEKEND- Frontrunners Party weekend in Copenhagen!! Can’t wait to see my friends! Some friends from Finland, Belgium and Germany, etc. is coming to Copenhagen!! =)

I’m going to Finland for work 23.-27.11. I fly to Helsinki then drive to Malminharju about 2 hours from Helsinki. Then back to Helsinki and FLY back to Denmark. So it means that I will not have time to see my friends or visit the city of Helsinki. Oh.
Then on 1.-4.12 I and Tiina Haanpaa from Finland will have a DNUR’s meeting in Copenhagen. DNUR = Deaf Nordic Youth Council… =)

Now I am so tired and the time is 23:20, now is bedtime =)
I will try to type more often in my blog!!!

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Mette Sommer from Denmark and Patrik Nordell from Sweden

Mette Sommer and Patrik Nordell
7.11 Patrik Nordell came here and told us about Deafism and his philosophy. We were exposed to philosophy (positivism vs postmodernism) by Patrik. Read more about this later www.frontblog.dk --> weekly report.
8.11 Mette Sommer is studying sociology. She told us about sociology and her 1 year at Bristol University in the UK. Read more about this later www.frontblog.dk --> weekly report. =)

ODENSE - City of Hans Christian Andersen

4.11 Friday, we went to Odense to see the H.C.Andersen museum which was interesting. We discovered a lot about who he was and about his life.
Hans Christian Andersen was an writer who wrote many fairy tales and stories. A few famous of H.C Andersen’s fairy tales are The ugly Duckling, The Little Mermaid, The Little Match-seller etc. Comfortables stories for children and of course us, adults heh. I love books so I bought one book from there =P Heh.

1.-3.11 Really a nice PROJECT!

Ole gave us one task for this project. We were split in 4 groups. I and Thomas worked together. We had to design a week program for students in Deaf schools. Thomas and I picked young people aged between 12 and 17 for this program.
I tell some examples about our plan- Monday: Introduction to the course and the themes, Deaf Culture introduction, creative workshops etc. Tuesday: Quick evaluation from yesterday and introduction to Deaf Education, History of Deaf Education. Wednesday: Sign Language Thursday: Deaf Identity etc. Friday: Deaf organizations EUDY and WDFYS, evaluation and summaries of Deaf Culture, Deaf Identity, Sign Language and History of the Education. We also made materials for this course, made questions for student, homework themes, workshops etc. I really enjoyed a lot about this project, I like to teach Deaf children about those themes.

A wonderful week in Copenhagen on 24.-30.10

We went to Copenhagen for a week and visited a lot of deaf organisations.
Ahh what can I to write first… Monday we arrived in Copenhagen from here and we went to a hostel with bags etc. Then we went and grabbed some food then met Redtop for a Deaf History tour. He took us around Copenhagen and showed us some important places where deaf education developed. He also shared the history of Castberg; the man that Castberggård is named after.

Monday noon, we went to a meeting for Tegnsprog Nu and was too stunning to see how they act with Tegnsprog Nu = Sign Language NOW. Tegnsprog Nu group is like active group and they want to show what is sign language and justice. The goals are: Make DSL an official language of Denmark, increase awareness about DSL and the Danish Deaf community, increase events relating to DSL and the Deaf community, increase media about DSL and the Deaf community. www.tegnsprognu.dk

Tuesday morning= THRILL!
Guess what? We went to the CI- hospital to get know doctor’s theory about Deaf, Sign Language and CI. A little bit sticky to explain what it was like in there. A woman who is an audiologist, told about CI, CI- children etc, we had questions for her and she answered us. We can see that she lies sometimes. Lie is maybe a wrong word but unaccountable tales were explained to us. Also she showed us CI- objects, how an operation process. This time was too hostile mood, my feelings was. Can’t explain. It was too close that I left in the middle of a meeting, but I stayed there all time with FR.

After CI we went to visit Deaf TV.
We went to Deaf TV’s studio and we got know about their a history etc. They have a variety of programmes; children’s programme What is Didi, teenage programme Beebs, young adult programme Swap, adults Viften 30 minutes. Then Beebs interviewed us in the studio with video cameras about our Frontrunners. Frontrunners’s interview will be shown on TV here in Denmark sometimes in the last week of November. We enjoyed it a lot. www.deaftv.dk

Wednesday morning: Deaf Danish Association – DDL.
Wednesday afternoon Knowledge Centre. Read more about DDL and Knowledge Centre www.frontblog.dk --> weekly report

Thrusday morning KC – Communication Centre. Read more about KC www.frontblog.dk --> weekly report.

Thrusday evening I went to visit Thomas’ home, we talked about EUDY etc and then meet others in the city. We went to a restaurant to eat and talking, talking. Was a nice evening with Deaf people =)

Friday morning Centre for Deaf
Friday afternoon Deaf Church . Read more about Centre for Deaf and Deaf church www.frontblog.dk --> weekly report.

Finally weekend time! I and Sarah went to Thomas’ home and stayed in Copenhagen for weekend! I, Sarah, Christoper, Jerry and Thomas ate thai-foods at Thomas’ home and of course drinking and talking J And then we went to Deaf Club for party, there was a lot of Deaf people. Almost young people, new faces.
On Saturday morning I, Sarah, Christoper, Gordon and Iva went to Helsingör (North of Copenhagen/Denmark) by train about 45minutes. In Helsingör has one big and historical castle called Kronborg Slot. We visited there for about 3hours and went to walk in Helsingör- city. Ohh, old houses, beautiful!!! And then we went to SWEDEN, Helsingborg by ship only 10 minutes from Helsingör to Helsingborg. I’ve never been in Helsingborg before! Ohh, Helsingborg is too unique and old city. We visited in Helsingborg’s old city, walked, walked around the city. I’m happy when I visited a lot of cities in South Sweden; Göteborg, Malmö, Lund and Helsingborg. BACK TO COPENHAGEN from Helsinborg by ship and train. When we arrived in Copenhagen, we met other Deaf people and we went to eat together. Talking, Talking… Sunday whole all day I was lazy and stayed only at Thomas’ home, heh heh. Afternoon I and Sarah left from Copenhagen back to Castberggaard. We’d not want to go to back Castberggaard, we enjoyed lots in Copenhagen!!! Hih.


22.10.2005 Surprise, Surprise!! Elina Pokki sent a message to my mobilephone: “Congratulations! You have been voted in the EUDY’s Board!”. Incredible!
I’m happy when I was voted and now I am belonging in the EUDY. Of course it’s much things to do for EU youth. I am also from the Finnish Deaf Youth Committee of the Finnish Association of the Deaf (FAD). So it means that I will do lots with F D Y C and FAD as teamwork too. Thank you, FAD and Elina Pokki!! You are supporting me in the EUDY!!
Regards, Minna

http://www.eudy.info and http://www.kl-deaf.fi/nuorisotoiminta

Friday, October 21, 2005


Yesterday we got a task from Vivien; to make a film! The project is called ”Deaftopia”. We were split in 2 groups: We had a 26 hours task - starting from Wednesday at 10:00 and deadline was on Thrusday at 12:00. Project Deaftopia: to make a script and a short film, length: a minimum of 3 minutes. Theme: A commercial or a ”positive” documentary about being Deaf, The short film must only give a positive image of being Deaf, and eventually show that it`s wonderful to be Deaf (or how wonderful it could be if everyone were Deaf) and hearing were the minority.” Yippee!
So we had two groups Team 1 and Team 2. I belong in Team 1 with Sarah, Katrina, Christophe, Jerry and Filip. We thought first about what we would want to do etc. We came up with so many ideas and laughs!. When we were ready and started producing; we prepared a list of clothes, make-up and things for the studio. Then in the description, we were to start 10:00, but we started at 8:30 until 1:30 in the NEXT morning!! Hey, it meant that we did it in 16 hours! But after 6pm we started to edit the movie by Window Movie Maker etc. Today we all saw our film and Team 2’s also. Our movie made others laugh! =D We laughed too much yesterday all time! Here, I am showing a few pictures of the day project. =)


Tuesday 18.10
Peter came here to teach us. He talked about Deaf History in sports etc. It was very interested to hear because I didn`t know too much about history of Deaf`s sport before. =) He wrote a book ” History of Dovania”, Dovania is one of the Danish Deaf Sport Club, based in Copenhagen. And since he told about his hobbies. One of his hobbies is to collect stamps! On stamps must have Deaf involved, either by person, organisations, events and stamp artist. He showed us different stamps. It was exciting to see! And the last part, he told us about how to find something Deaf history in the internet, mainly on films which has Deaf actors or characters. Thank you, Peter!

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

F R O N T R U N N E R S - T E A M

Monday, October 10, 2005

Ouiee Weekend!

Now it is Monday evening.
I just had a lovely and special weekend here in Castberggaard.
On Friday, Dr. Yerker Andersson taught us. After we were so relief that the weekend is coming because we waited so severely for long time as we were so burn out after our trip in Finland. Some of us were shopping for foods for our weekend. We bought Thai-foods, ice-creams, bacon & eggs for morning breakfast, yay yay! =P On Friday evening we relaxed, talked and talked with wines and some beers. I enjoyed sleeping long time on Saturday morning =). On Saturday... At noon I was homesick, it knocked me badly which hurted me a bit. I miss my family, friends and my life there in Finland very much. But it was lucky that my friends supported me and I got over it. I have never lived in overseas longer than one month. But I cannot compare holiday and school in overseas. So... But it`s so really good and a new experience for me. I have been thinking about volunteering in Asia for one year, but now I think it is important that people cannot go overseas for a long period of time without their dear friend or boyfriend etc. so. I always need to have someone who is ready to support and understand if I want go to the world. Anyway, before I got here in Denmark, I thought about my homeland I felt it was not too special and normal. Now I think otherwise! I love my homeland, Finland is in my heart and blood. Family, Friends and my Live = ALL`s there! I respect my homeland very much now and my life is in there.

Then Jerry made Thai-foods for us. It was so delicious!! YAY! Thank you Jerry for Thai-foods!
We enjoyed together with dinner and talking. Talking and relaxing. On Saturday evening = Ice-creams and DVD =), on Sunday morning bacons and eggs invitated us ;) And then we cleaned the kitchen etc. After I went outside biking with Ronan. This time, the weather was sunny. That`s my weekend! =)

Yerker Andersson

Yerker Andersson
Sociology, teacher at Gally.

6.-7.10 Yerker Andersson came here and talked to us Frontrunners.
Who is he? He was born in Vallentuna, Sweden in the year 1929. He was a student at the Manilla school from 1937 to 1945 and then later left to Gallaudet University and he got a degree in Sociology. He was Vice President of the WFD board from 1975 to1983. He was then WFD`s President from 1983 to 1995. Yerker told us about WFD and Leadership. It was really interesting to hear about his experiences and we learnt a lot from him. He shared some of his knowledge and shared some ideas of what we could do in the future. There will be more about Yerker Andersson soon on our frontblog. You can see our website, there is a video interview with Yerker.

I want to write something short about WFD.
WFD is now 54 years old and next year will be 55 years old!

Some facts about the WFD:


1. V. Ieralla 1951-1955 from Italy
2. D. Vukotic 1955-1983 from Yogoslavia
3. Y. Andersson 1983-1995 from Sweden/USA
4. L. Kauppinen 1995-2003 from proud Finland
5. M. Jokinen 2003- from proud Finland

Some ”stages” of the Deaf World

Medical Model

Breaking Point

1987- Nowadays
Social Model

Q U E S T I O N:
Medical Model-->Breaking Point-->Social Model-->FUTURE?
What do you think will be our next model? Tell us via our FORUM, thank you!

Yerker, Thank you very much for coming here and sharing your knowledge and experiences. Thank you! It was very fascinating and I enjoyed it thoroughly. :)


Tuesday, October 04, 2005


Ohh, now it is Monday evening and I am back in Denmark.
We got back here last night from Finland. Yesterday was a bit hard day for me.
I cried a bit when I was packing for my return to Denmark. I wish to stay in Finland longer, as my is in there. Anyway I`m ok now and happy to study still with some more new and exciting with Frontrunners :)

We arrived Finland last week on Monday.
On Tuesday I visited the WFD`s meeting with Jerry and Vivien. Vivien is the WDFYS President so she is needed in the WFD`s meeting. Jerry and I watched all day and were very very interested! I felt like a scuba in a book and learned a lot about Deaf organisation.
Thanks must go to Vivien because she arranged the visit and gave us an opportunity to know the WFD`s board, burgers and Presidents!!
Now I know how they ”tend to” on our world... Very interesting, it is hard to explain with words.
The meeting gave me a lot to think about. The meting had showed me how the management in the board works. For me, they managed perfectly and in order which is very clear. But, of course the WFD has many, many things to do to make Deaf world better!! We all know that too.

On Wednesday the WFD held an educational workshop, but we were in there for only half day.
It was also interested to see. In the afternoon we watched Finnish Deaf`s Theatre ”Tähän asti tuntematon”, was good theatre :) But it was a big bother for international Deaf people because the performers signed in Finnish, not International Sign. Anyway, they did say that it was nice to watch.

About the International Conference of the WFD "Our Rights- Our Future" 30.9-1.10
Information is in www.frontblog.com so, visit there then :)
My thoughts on the WFD`s conference 2 days was very interested and I liked it very much!! Many good topics. In the evening, the WFD had a Centenary Cultural Party and Buffet in association with the Finnish Association of the Deaf, there were about 1000 people. There were different performances etc. The people drank wines with buffet and of course talking and talking! Great time! :)

And to my family and friends :)