Thursday, October 22, 2009

Deaf community mourns ‘father figure’ at funeral

Source Link - Deaf community mourns ‘father figure’ at funeral

EMOTIONAL mourners yesterday painted the life of Theo Blumberg as “exceptional” at his funeral at the Cambridge Jewish Cemetery , hailing him as a parent to the deaf community.

Former pupils at Theo Blumberg Pre-school for the Deaf also thanked “the great man” for making it possible for them to communicate with society.

Now adults, pupils who had learned sign language at the school in Mdantsane – since closed due to financial reasons – paid their respects to Blumberg and shared fond memories.

They were also joined by Blumberg’s colleagues in honouring his “exceptional” life.

Speaking to the Daily Dispatch, former pupils Nomfundo Sikhondo , Nomakwezi Mavela and Sabelo Vuso , who also represented the Deaf Federation of SA (Deafsa), said Blumberg was like a father to them.

Sikhondo said she had attended the school from the age of six.

“He was a great man and he did a good job of helping us to communicate with the world,” she said.

“On behalf of Deafsa, we say he must rest in peace. We thank him for his wonderful work, he will always be missed,” Sikhondo said.

Vuso said he was introduced to sign language when he was four years old.

“I thank him for what he did for me. It could have been a different world for me if it was not for him,” he said.

Mavela, who at the age of five had her first lesson in sign language, said: “Today I’m able to express myself with the help of a translator.”

Many of Blumberg’s former pupils now work at the Deafsa office, assisting the deaf with social grants.

Ntombizodwa Mdingi , who started teaching sign language at the pre-school, and who now teaches at the St Thomas School for the Deaf near King William’s Town, said Blumberg had cared deeply for deaf children.

“All his life he spent helping the deaf. Even after the pre- school was closed down, he was involved in issues relating to the deaf,” she said.

“He was prepared to go the extra mile and was really active on deaf people issues raised by Deafsa ....”

An official from the provincial Education Department’s support programme for children with hearing barriers, Phumla Jola , said parents in Mdantsane who had sent their children to the pre- school “still cry over Blumberg’s death”.

She added the deaf community appreciated what Blumberg achieved.