Deaf learner is a role model for friends and classmates
Wai Yu Chu’s friends call her a hero. That’s because she has faced so many challenges in her life and has overcome them cheerfully, effectively, and with determination.
The second-year Bow Valley College Business Administration learner counts making her way in a hearing world as a Deaf person among her challenges. Wai Yu lost her hearing over two years, beginning when she was eight years old, right when her family moved from China, first to Hong Kong, and then to New York City. Later she would move to Montreal and then Calgary.
In addition to losing her hearing, she had to navigate her way in a new language and new culture – and she had to learn sign language. Her education had been interrupted multiple times as she moved from city to city. These were trying times indeed for Wai Yu.
She speaks through one of six full-time sign language interpreters that work at Bow Valley College.
“I have been through some terrible experiences,” Wai Yu signs. “It’s taken me a long time to heal.” She mentions leaving an abusive relationship, in addition to the challenges of being a single parent of three children. Her youngest, a teenager who still lives with her, is deaf; her middle child is hearing, and her eldest is hard of hearing.
She knew that she needed to do something to improve her skills, so she could provide a more fulfilling life for her and her children. On the advice of a woman she met at Deaf and Hard of Hearing Association Alberta (now Deaf Alberta), she enrolled at Bow Valley College for High School Upgrading.
She’s been at Bow Valley College since, studying part time and taking care of her children. The supports she received while attending Bow Valley College, including interpreters and other special accommodations, plus her own persistence, helped her complete Upgrading. She then turned her sights to a career. Wai Yu signs that among the many invaluable supports she received at Bow Valley College are the financial awards she has received.
“Sometimes things get hard and the money is really beneficial,” she signs. “Please tell the donors that their support really motivates me and makes me feel valued when they recognize my accomplishments.”
She now faces another challenge: finding a job in her field in a hearing culture that sometimes has the perception that because she is deaf, she isn’t as capable as a hearing person.
“It’s been a long process,” Wai Yu signs. Still, she has overcome many challenges and is confident that she will again. Wai Yu is excited and she is looking forward to this next part of her life. She takes pride in knowing that she is a strong and resilient person.
“My friends say I am a role model because I have learned to have the courage to stand up for myself, and to believe in myself.”
Posted on December 11, 2018
Story and photo by Anne Georg