by Ahmed Aldabba, Emad Drimly
GAZA, March 20 (Xinhua) -- Silence overwhelmed the hall where Asmaa Omar and 11 of her deaf classmates were enthusiastically following the fingers of their chef, who was speaking to them in sign language and preparing them to run the first ever restaurant operated by deaf people in the Gaza Strip.
The 12 trainees, eight males and four females, have been attending the courses to learn culinary arts, cooking and food serving for almost two months, as part of a program initiated by Gaza-based Atfaluna Society for Deaf Children and funded by Drosos Foundation from Switzerland in an attempt to provide job opportunities for hearing-impaired people in the Gaza Strip.
Most of those enrolled in the courses used to be students at Atfaluna Society's school since they were children. Now they are given a true chance to start a new professional life thanks to this project.
All in sign language, the students get theoretical and practical training to become professional chefs who can made dishes from western and oriental cuisines.
Such a chance has been a dream for Omar, now 19, who spent 10 years in Atfaluna's school waiting for the day when she can enjoy constant incomes and independence.
"This is what I have been seeking: a job," said Omar in sign language interpreted by the society's interpreter.
Omar says this program gave her high morale and took away the feeling of isolation with which she has lived for years.
Atfaluna Society works on improving the quality of life of deaf children and adults to reach their full potentials by providing education, health care, social services and work opportunities.
The new restaurant Omar and her classmates are working for will open in the Gaza City in a few months and will serve both deaf and ordinary customers.
In the courses, the students are also taught how to communicate with ordinary customers.
The restaurant's menu will be similar to that of any other restaurant, but the waiters and waitresses will take orders in a different way: by classifying the ordered dishes with numbers instead of names.
Omar and her fellows said by running this restaurant they could prove to the world their productivity in an inclusive society.
"Job opportunities for the deaf are rare. But this project will show the hearing community that we can do any kind of work just like them. I hope after this project deaf people could get better chances for employment," said 23-year-old Saleem Khater, a trainee in the courses.
Through this program, Atfaluna Society aims to create a new bridge between deaf and hearing communities in the Gaza Strip and integrate the hearing-impaired people into professional life by giving them a chance to gain practical experience. It says such a program shows that deaf people are able to work as delicately and professionally as others and can be a source of inspiration to all the deaf around the world.
"We are trying to integrate the deaf people within the society. It is a unique initiative to promote their abilities and their skills in the professional life," said Daliya Abu Amer, Atfaluna Society's media officer.