In fewer than three years, Waving Hands, a nonprofit social and educational group for the deaf and hard of hearing, has grown from 20 to 600 members across South Florida.
“It really is the best feeling knowing our organization keeps evolving to something so amazing and inspires me to expand it more and inform everyone about it,” said Waving Hands President JohnPaul Jebian, a Miami Dade College professor who teaches American Sign Language to students at G. Holmes Braddock Senior High in Southwest Miami-Dade County.
Waving Hands on Thursday will host two screenings of Beyond the Embers, a suspense film in ASL (American Sign Language). The first screening will be 10 a.m. for students and senior citizens; the second will be at 7 p.m. Both screenings at Goodlet Park Theatre in Hialeah are open to the public.
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Launched in summer 2012, Waving Hands offers educational workshops for deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals; group discussions on health issues, new and improved interpreting techniques, employment and legal rights. Members take field trips to places like Miami Children’s Museum and Miami-Dade Regional Library, where last June guest Jonathan Ferrer recited stories in sign language.
Jebian, 44, of Miami is also deaf. Waving Hands is open to deaf children, deaf parents, sign-language interpreters, teachers and anyone interested in being a part of the deaf community, he said.
“It has inspired me to perform deaf activities such as ASL Stories at West Dade Regional Public Library and watch the kids interact with one another and enjoy all the events,” Jebian said. “I’m very thankful for all of our volunteers that come out and support the deaf community for Waving Hands.”
Waving Hands holds deaf-oriented events including movies and theater trips, deaf magicians, Miami Heat and Miami Dolphins outings, bowling days, deaf summer camp and trips to Starbucks.
“It really is the best feeling knowing our organization keeps evolving to something so amazing and inspires me to expand it more and inform everyone about it,” Jebian said.
Jennifer Ferrer, 33, of Miami has been a Waving Hands committee member since 2012. She has a vision for a successfully growing organization and believes that the many events held have had a huge impact on the growth and awareness of the organization.
“What I like about the Waving Hands organization is how we make sure we have events for the family that has deaf children, CODA (children of deaf adults), hard of hearing, or the parents who wants to learn ASL,” Ferrer said. “We want them to feel they have activities and to provide an environment of togetherness. The deaf community is so small and that is why we are so close to each other.”
Ferrer said inolvement in Waving Hands has influenced improvements and more awareness in South Florida.
“I can see that we are growing and we are grateful to have a wonderful organization that provides the best for this deaf community,” she said. “We need this organization for our voice to be heard.”
Jebian says community involvement in Waving Hands has inspired him.
“I love that Waving Hands is such a friendly community of people. I always sponsor the events and I get to meet new faces and meet lots of people that want to learn ASL,” Jebian said. “It truly is the best feeling knowing that they are interested in helping our community grow larger.”
Jamy Pacheco, 17, is a non-deaf student in the organization. Pacheco said Waving Hands has given her a high level of comfort, that activities offer a chance to come together and have a good time.
“I've learned that you can be yourself and still be able to learn this beautiful language,” Pacheco said. “Learning this language has made a huge impact in my life and I can't imagine not having it as a part of my life. I meet so many deaf and hard of hearing people every day, and it's just a great feeling.”
If you go
▪ Screening of sign-language film ‘Beyond the Embers’
▪ Where: Goodlet Park Theatre, 4200 W. Eighth Ave., Hialeah
▪ When: 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. Thursday
▪ Price: Advance tickets $11; $15 at the door
▪ Tickets available at www.wavinghands.org
▪ Information: firstname.lastname@example.org, 786-505-7926 (voice) or 305-343-9784.