Hard of hearing herself, Buchholz frequently leads American Sign Language classes for the refugees, a task that is made more challenging because many of the refugees are often illiterate in English. Debbie Buchholz runs a program for deaf refugees out of her Olathe church.Hard of hearing herself, Buchholz frequently leads American Sign Language classes for the refugees, a task that is made more challenging because many of the refugees are often illiterate in English.Born hard of hearing, the child of two deaf parents, the Rev.Debbie Buchholz — pastor of a church for the deaf and mother of seven adult children, four of whom are deaf or hard of hearing — parked her SUV up along the circle drive of her Olathe home.“That said, I am a person, a person who authentically believes that people are people are people. He is African-American, 20, with autism and cerebral palsy, and has an at-home aide. “We all have a special need we need to work on,” said Buchholz, pastor of the Deaf International Community Church, which convenes its services in space rented at the Center of Grace, 520 S. Buccholz climbed into her SUV and, over the next 40 minutes, made her way through Kansas City, Kan., pulling up to the homes of two students.And regardless of politics and what people are feeling and thinking, these people are here. Besides their three biological sons — all of whom are either deaf or hard of hearing — Buchholz and her husband Allen, who is 65 and owns an insurance agency, adopted four special-needs children years ago. I kept asking my husband what we could do about it.” The result was the adoption of a 3-year-old son from Korea, now 27, who has autism. The first was Sin Sin, who is unsure of her actual age.
He arrived 18 months ago from the Nepali refugee camp and lives with his brother, sister-in-law and their children.
Culturally, deaf refugees can face discrimination and financial mistreatment even by close family members who see them as lesser individuals.
“All deaf refugees lead different lives, just like no snowflakes are the same,” Micki Keck, one of Buchholz’s volunteers, said by email.
Then they are brought over here — and to be deaf…Think of what a scary and lonely place that would be to be in.” To be sure, Buchholz knows the issues surrounding immigrants and refugees have become highly politicized and divisive since the 2016 presidential campaign, with calls from the Trump administration to place limits on both. Debbie Buchholz signs with Sin Sin, a deaf refugee from Myanmar, while driving her to an American Sign Language class in Kansas City, Kan., for deaf refugees.
“Listen,” she said, “I love to have a good dialogue with people with the understanding that it isn’t my way or no way, or your way or no way. Buchholz, who is hard of hearing herself, runs a program for deaf refugees through her Olathe church.