Asanda Katshwa has been invited to attend three of the biggest international sign language conventions in South Korea in July.
Katshwa, who is an internationally-recognized sign language interpreter, will attend conferences hosted by Children of Deaf Adults (Coda), the World Association of Sign Language Interpreters (Wasli), and the World Federation for the Deaf (WFD).
She was raised by two deaf parents, and as such, learned to translate for them and members of her community while growing up. She later went on to study sign language interpreting at university.
“I have always loved helping people and working with NGOs in my community. I would always interpret for people who needed help.
“So when I had the opportunity to study, I went for it because I knew it would open doors for me,” said Katshwa.
Having worked as a freelance interpreter for years, she has gained international recognition and traveled to Nigeria, Sweden, and Spain to attend world conventions and learn more about the deaf community.
“I really love the idea of attending these types of events because being around others like me validates me and I feel less alone.
“Meeting other people who grew up in the deaf community makes me feel seen and less alone because I will meet an older Asian deaf person who has had the exact same growing up experience as me. We all come from different worlds and cultures, but we live the exact same life.
“My biggest aim in life is to elevate the lives of deaf people.
“Deaf people experience life very differently from hearing people.
“Even issues like load-shedding affect them differently because deaf people communicate with their hands, so when there is load-shedding in the evenings, communication becomes a problem for them.
“I hope to help increase support and development for sign language interpreters so we can make life more pleasant for deaf people.”
Katshwa said hearing people could make life easier for deaf people by simply being kinder and educating themselves on how to interact politely with deaf people.
“Deaf people communicate with lots of eye contact. So maintaining eye contact with them and showing them that you are communicating with them, helps a lot.
“When you break eye contact with a deaf person who is actively trying to communicate with you, it can hurt their self-esteem and make them feel unimportant, especially when they can see you talking but can’t hear what you are saying. Just being kind and polite can go a long way.”
Katshwa is appealing to anyone who can assist her in traveling to South Korea in July.
“I would like to appeal to the public to assist me with the costs of the flights, accommodation, food, and study material for this trip. I need about R90,000 to cover the costs,“ she said.