Documentary in production about Guam's deaf community - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Documentary in production about Guam's deaf community

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They may live in a world of silence, but the deaf community is no longer remaining quiet. A special documentary is currently in production hoping to bridge the gap between the deaf and hearing worlds.

Melissa Cayton is not deaf, but has dedicated a majority of her life to the deaf community. "The minute I was born, ASL - American Sign Language - was my first language," she recalled. And for this former Barrigada resident, her childhood wasn't spent watching cartoons or playing outside, but instead involved negotiating a car deal and setting up doctor's appointments - just a few of the services she provided as an interpreter for two people she continues to look up to.

"When I was a kid, they say I kind of spoke funny, I sounded like a deaf person, like I had a deaf voice," Melissa explained. "It was English words and you could kind of hear it, but it's just because I learned from my role models, my deaf parents, who I learned from." Melissa is the child of deaf adults - Bob and Margaret Aguon Cayton. She also has a younger brother who is deaf. Her mother is one of 10 siblings which includes a deaf sister. Just like Melissa, growing up wasn't easy for Margaret.

"I saw many hearing people, everybody was all hearing and I was the only one deaf there. I thought I could talk, I would move my mouth and gesture to them, and my classmates would look at me, tease me, and call me dumb or mute," she said. Melissa and her parents are now back on Guam from Washington hoping to break the world of silence that many in the deaf community live in. "Now I'm brave, I'm strong and I know I can communicate with hearing people or whoever, I have no fear. Now that I'm back on Guam, they say, 'Oh That's Margaret, she can't talk' and I'm like 'Excuse me, I am here and I am deaf, I can talk and I can communicate and I will say don't discriminate, don't push me down," she said.

Bridging the gap between the deaf and hearing worlds is the goal of the documentary film Melissa is directing here on Guam. "The documentary is going to hit on just sharing our Guam deaf people sharing who they are, where they're from, their background, where they work, just so you can get to know them and also kind of identifying their struggles and barriers because I feel once we go, 'Oh, that's cool', and understand deaf people, their world will change and their world will be even better," she said.

The national board-certified teacher and 20-year sign language interpreter has spent the last three years recording and documenting the stories of our deaf man'amko. The film will include voice interpreting, subtitles and the opportunity to learn the island culture through "Chagi Chamorro signs". She said, "So our hope is to bring them all together, the deaf community is kind of disintegrated and it lacks leadership and understanding and so it's kind of all broken. So we're trying to bring it all together, not just with the deaf community but with hearing people involved so it could be a stronger awareness."

Cayton says awareness is the goal as research has shown that Guam has less than 200 deaf people. And while improvements have been made compared to decades ago, the Caytons say Guam still is behind in terms of services with the integration of technology and the standards of interpreting. Melissa's dad Bob says he hopes the documentary will help the future generation of deaf children, adding, "To make things look better with the interpreter system, to get them more focused, focused on our deaf children, to be patient and don't shun them, to reject them or leave them alone."

"Guam Deaf: Exposed & Empowered" is set to be completed in October and featured at next summer's festival of pacific arts. For more information email empowerguamdeaf@gmail.com.   

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