According to the World Health Organization, over 5% of the world’s population – or 466 million people – have disabling hearing loss. In America, approximately 20% – or 48 million people – have some degree of hearing impairment. Two-year-old Samantha Savitz from Massachusetts is part of that statistic. Living within a community where there are no other deaf people around, her kind neighbors found a way to make her feel welcome and most of all, included.
Sam lives in Islington Road in Newton, Massachusetts, a neighborhood where she is loved by many. Sam loves to talk to anyone who knows basic sign language, but not everyone in the neighborhood knows how to communicate with her.
“She’s super engaging. She wants to chat-up with anybody.” said her father, Raphael.
“Yea, her whole personality changes when it’s someone who can communicate with her,” said her mother, Glenda.
On the other hand, it makes Sam a little sad when people can’t interact with her.
It was obvious to her neighbors how badly Sam wanted to engage with them. Whenever they see her on a walk or in her yard and the little girl tries to be friendly – they are frustrated because they don’t know how to talk to her.
“I didn’t know what to say back. Wouldn’t you like to talk to her?” said one neighbor.
All of them wanted the same things for Sam.
“Basic conversation that one would have with a child,” said another.
“Asking her about her day,” said a third.
“And make her feel that she is part of the neighborhood,” said another neighbor.
“Just be her friend,” another neighbor added.
Based on these words from her neighbors, it is clear that they all wanted to be there for Sam as her friend. But first, they would need to learn Americal Sign Language. It might be unthinkable for some – that a whole neighborhood would learn ASL just for a little 2-year old girl – but this particular community did just that.
On their own, Samantha’s neighbors gathered and hired an instructor. Now, they are all immersed in an American Sign Language class. Rhys McGovern, the teacher, says that this is a remarkable feat because some parents of deaf children don’t even bother to learn sign language.
“But here Sam has a full community that’s signing and communicating with her and her family, and it is a beautiful story,” he said.
Her parents have no words to express their level of gratitude for what the community did for Sam. Glenda found the act “shocking and beautiful”, while Raphael feels “so fortunate” that their daughter is receiving so much love in this way.
In fact, the couple is already seeing a change in their daughter. During ASL classes, the first thing that Sam says to her neighbors is “friend”.
It is good to see that the neighbors succeeded in their objective to learn basic sign language – that of becoming a friend to little Sam. We are sure that this energetic girl is happier, now that she has friends around who speak the same language as her. Thank you to this neighborhood in Islington Road for showing us the true essence of being a community.
Watch the video below from CBS News to learn more about this wonderful story.
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