15 April 2009

VCUQatar Offers Community Classes to the Hearing Impaired Community in Qatar

Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar has started this season’s Community Classes and course offerings include various classes in different design areas by noted local and international instructors.

The first set of classes offered in Feb/March filled up extremely quickly as did the current set which runs from the 5th of April through to early May.  The current set of classes features the hugely popular adobe package again as well as a class by Don Early in Fast Sketching and a Study in Color by Joe Al Khatib which is being offered in Arabic. “We also plan to offer community classes in the summer including a week long workshop for 9 – 11 year olds from 5 to 9 July,” said Valerie Jeremijenko, Assistant Dean of Student affairs at VCUQatar.  

The feature program of this semester however, has been the classes that VCUQatar is offering to the hearing impaired community here in Doha.  VCUQatar, in cooperation with her Highness’ Office and the Qatari Center of Social Cultural Development for the Deaf, has put together a full semester program in which 13 deaf students are being taught jewelry making, drawing and Arabic.  Sign language expert, Haya Obaid Al-Sunari who is the Programs and Projects Supervisor at the Qatari Center of Social Cultural development for the Deaf, is the force behind this happening.  The program also includes the participation of VCUQatar students.

“Working with Haya and Her Highness’s office on this project has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my time here in Qatar,” said Ms. Jeremijenko. “Everyone involved has been so excited, from the faculty, to the VCUQatar student assistants and the students themselves.  Helping to put together a program in which everyone feels fulfilled and happy doesn’t happen to often.  The students have learnt the basics about communicating with the deaf and the culture of the deaf as well as the challenges they face. They are assisting in the classrooms by translating as well as helping in the projects,” added Ms. Jeremijenko.

“Last year the idea of teaching the hearing impaired was conceived and we are at the moment, over half way through a ten week course, meeting one evening per week,” said Libby Smith who is teaching gold smithing. “Our instructors helped us understand the world of a person who is deaf and gave us ways of communicating.   When I started I wasn’t certain how to approach this new challenge and in the end decided to teach the class in the same way as I have always taught it.  The results have been amazing, just as they are with my VCUQatar students who are given the opportunity of learning the world of metal.  The students have proven to be bright, eager to learn and grasp what is presented to them with very impressive speed,” she added.

“The hours I spend with them, wrapped in their warm, angelic smiles, are truly the highlight of my week,” said VCUQatar student volunteer Yasmeen Suleiman. “Their aspiration, motivation, drive to succeed, and desire to learn, inspires me and overwhelms me with appreciation. Art and Design have broken the barriers, offering wonderful opportunities for these astonishing individuals to express themselves. It has genuinely been an eye-opening and emotionally stirring experience that has allowed me to further grow and understand, and to expand as a designer and human being,” she added.   

Al Jazeera is providing sign language interpreters for the program and Ms. Jeremijenko said there are plans to introduce them to graphics as well next year.

VCUQatar offers non-credit classes as part of its mission to provide educational, cultural and design opportunities to the Qatari community. All classes are open to both women and men and are taught at the VCUQatar campus.  Questions regarding community classes can be directed to Valerie Jeremijenko at 492 7520 or vjeremijenko@qatar.vcu.edu or to Lesley Gray at 492 7520 or lagray@qatar.vcu.edu.

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