Jamaica has long been a jewel in the Caribbean! Its lush topography of mountains, rain forests and reef lined beaches, along with beautiful colonial architecture, renowned for diving and snorkeling in the emerald green waters, and of course, the birth place of reggae and Jerk chicken. It is also the home of a very large Deaf community, roughly 7,500 strong!
For generations Deaf Jamaicans were isolated from their hearing peers, forced to reside in designated "Deaf Communities" pushed aside, shunned, or forgotten; the Deaf were provided little to no educational opportunities or life skills training. Although the perception of many "Handicapped" people unable to make a worthwhile contribution has largely change, the Deaf population has been left behind.
Therefore, these individuals do not have a level of independence they deserve. The Deaf Community is proud to have its own Jamaican culture. Deaf schools are established, yet struggling; social access and Deaf rights are SLOWLY increasing, however they are eager to work toward a community that provides language development, education, employment and empowerment!
Little over a year ago,the Caribbean Christian Center for the Deaf took a field trip from Kingston to St. Elizabeth Jamaica, while visiting the coffee fields of the Blue Mountains, and a seed was planted. The High School boys questioned, "Why can't we grow our own coffee?"
St. Elizabeth has a high percentage of Deaf members and one of the Deaf coffee growers named Clark was leading the tour that day. After discussing the idea with the school , they decided this was a viable means of sustainability. Shortly thereafter, Clark moved onto the school grounds and began teaching the boys how to grow coffee. Quickly, the idea had taken on a life of its own.
A small structure , built by the hands of the Deaf students, faculty and staff was erected, followed by monies raised to buy one espresso machine. The little coffee shop opened after school hours from 3:00 pm - 6:00pm. Deaf Can Coffee was born!
Through the continued efforts of many, it is providing job skills, leadership and sustainability. The little coffee shop is staffed and run 100% by Deaf Baristas, and back of office employees. Looking into the future, with hopes of one day opening a second location that can be open regular business hours and provide more jobs to many members of the Jamaican Deaf community!