Australian grant to boost sign language training

The Samoa Association of Sign Language Interpreters [S.A.S.L.I.] has received a $20,000 tala grant from the Australian government to support their ongoing projects.

S.A.S.L.I. Vice President, Gafo Andrew Gafo, told Samoa Observer that the grant will enable the organisation to conduct their first sign language training for 2020-2021 and kick off in September this year.

He said the funding assistance will enable the training of interpreters within the association which over the long-term period will build their capacity in sign language.

"Our members have the skill but the goal is for the number of interpreters in Samoa to grow," he said.

According to Gafo, out of the association’s 23 members, seven are what he calls the "line 1" or "frontline" who can interpret at Government functions. Consequently, the training will focus on other members of the association.

When asked if their training will be extended to the community, he said: "In our training that we are planning, there will be a time to reach out to the community. We are looking towards next year to go to the communities, schools and villages."

Gafo then highlighted the importance of sign language and highlighted the important role it plays during the state of emergency [S.O.E].

The use of sign language to communicate with those who might be affected by the COVID-19 global pandemic makes sense, as Gafo said communicating while standing away enables social distancing rather than talking directly to a patient. 

"We are trying to raise awareness to the public that sign language is the third language in New Zealand and Australia right now. New Zealand and Australia see the importance of sign language so we are trying to make it an official language in Samoa," he added.

Gafo stated that the association is happy and thank God for what they have received.

An Australian High Commission spokesperson, in response to queries from Samoa Observer, said the Australian government is happy to support the S.A.S.L.I. initiative through the Australian High Commission’s 2020-2021 Direct Aid Program. 

"The Samoa Association of Sign Language Interpreters is awarded a grant of $20,000 under the Australian High Commission's Direct Aid Program for 2020-21 to provide sign language interpreters and members of the Deaf Association of Samoa.

"We are happy to provide this support through the Direct Aid Program and we look forward to working with S.A.S.L.I to deliver the sign language training modules in the near future."

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