Deaf Life10th November 2013

The Development of Deaf Villages

Deaf Villages in Ireland and Jamaica provide a sanctuary for Deaf visitors

by Sarah Lawrence

Thousands of miles apart, but with a major uniting interest, Deaf Villages in Jamaica and Ireland are capturing the interest of Deaf and Hard of Hearing people across the world.

​Faced with limited life prospects in Jamaica, the Caribbean Christian Centre for the Deaf seeks to provide deaf people with an opportunity to learn, live, work and worship in a community where they can communicate easily with other people.

Whilst the history of the Caribbean Christian Centre for the Deaf (CCCD) goes back to 1958, the Village is a relatively new and highly ambitious project. The CCCD was founded by the Reverend Willis Ethridge and his wife, Mildred, two Christian missionaries from Ontario, Canada. In  February of 1957, the Ethridges had been dispatched to Jamaica by the  Ontario Mission for the  Deaf, and started the Christian Deaf Fellowship Center in Kingston. In October of 1957 they were joined in the work by Paula Montgomery, an American, who was deaf herself. Paula Montgomery was the first deaf, American missionary. In June of 1958 the three missionaries were offered a one year lease of “Bethel,” a property located in Manchester Parish,  Jamaica owned by the Open Bible Standard Churches of Iowa. This marked the official beginning of CCCD. The school opened with eight students and a staff of three.

In September of 1962 the school moved to its present location in  Knockpatrick and by 1967 the enrollment had increased to forty students. Today the  Knockpatrick campus serves over 130 students. Construction on the Montego Bay Campus started in 1990 on 7½ acres of land that had been generously donated. On 29 August 1994, this new school opened with three children and today the Campus serves around 60 students.

On 6 July 1994, the Caribbean Christian Centre for the Deaf took possession of the old Christian Deaf Fellowship campus in Kingston. This facility, nestled in the heart of Kingston, gave CCCD an open door to the deaf in the city that is home to half the population of Jamaica. The Kingston campus of CCCD began on two acres of land, with the needed dormitory, classroom, kitchen and dining room to serve the 15 deaf students during its first year. Today the Kingston campus serves around 70 students.

In June 1984 the CCCD ministry began the development of the Jamaica Deaf Village on 100 acres of land. A church for the deaf was built and a factory, allowing people to support themselves. Apartments and small houses were planned to provide accommodation for deaf people and their families. Missionaries and volunteer work teams helped with the construction and many generous donations were made to raise the funds necessary to get the work started.

Eight years lapsed before the first cement block was laid and ten more years passed full of the trials and tribulations expected with a project reliant on donations and fund raising. Finally on Monday, 15 July 2002, the first villagers moved onto the campus. On Wednesday, 17 July 2002, the first steam-bent wooden rocking chair was manufactured in the factory at the Jamaica Deaf Village.

Progress since then has continued to be slow, but ambitions remain, with the CCCD overseeing the development of the Conference and Retreat Centre. As awareness grows of the Jamaica Deaf Village, visitors from far and wide are visiting the site to help with fundraising, undertake voluntary work or work as a missionary. With this level of support, work on the Conference and Retreat Centre is progressing well with the roof completed a matter of weeks ago. To learn more about the Jamaican Deaf Village or if you are interested in supporting their work go to

The Deaf Village Ireland benefits from a much wider and more developed support network and that has allowed progress to be made significantly more quickly. The benefits are there for all to see, with a fantastic facility already in place. 

Officially opened in March 2013, the Deaf Village Ireland supports all aspects of everyday deaf life through a state of the art social, administrative, community, sports and education complex. Whilst there were early concerns about hearing visitors being excluded, that is far from the reality with Deaf, Hard of Hearing and Hearing visitors equally welcome, under a unique integration communication ethos that welcomes Irish Sign Language and spoken English.

In seeking to address a long standing issue regarding the education of deaf people, the village also contains a life-long learning and Deaf Education Centre for Deaf adults, along with the teachers and parents of Deaf children. In addition to the educational resources, there is also a fitness centre, cafe and regular community events.

The initial idea of the Deaf Village stemmed from proposed changes to the Underground public transport system, but what marked this project out was the determination to have the project Deaf led at all stages.

A quick look at the Vision and Mission statements adopted by the Deaf Village Ireland, sets out an organisation with collaboration and co-operation at its core. Whereas some businesses set these out as warm woolly statements, visitors to the Deaf Village Ireland experience these standards being applied and it makes for a warm and friendly experience.

Whether you agree or disagree with the development of Deaf Villages, both Jamaica and Ireland are providing facilities where deaf people can feel more at home and are able to flourish.

Article by Sarah Lawrence

posted in Community / Deaf Life

10th November 2013