Sunday, 04 November 2018 12:44

The Sign Language’s Ambassadors

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Dear Readers, this year’s World Beauty Contest Miss & Mister Deaf Stars (MMDS) took place in Caserta, Italy, from 19th to 29th of October 2018. Foundation “Deaf Unlimited Bulgaria” was among the organizations hosting the prestigious event. Part of its activities involves preparing deaf Bulgarian models for International Beauty Contests and aiding them in their participation. The MMDS event got Bulgarian candidates Yummyugul Sally (Miss Deaf Bulgaria 2018) and Nikolay Korchev (Mister Deaf Bulgaria 2018) measure up their beauty and skills against fellow models from around the world. Both of them were raised in the families of hearing people. They also strongly advocate for the legal recognition of Bulgarian Sign Language. They are Ambassadors of the Sign Language in Caserta, Italy. They are convinced that participating in fashion shows is a wonderful way of introducing the unconventional beauty of the gesturing hands to the world.

Yummyugul Naim Sally got sick when she was 2 years old. She ran a fever and got through a severe inflammation, which ultimately resulted in hearing loss. The charming brunette from Momchilgrad studied at a regular secondary school years 9 to 12. Her first encounter with Bulgarian Sign Language and the deaf community happened when she moved to live and study in Sofia. At the age of 23, she enrolled Sofia University where she learned about the existence of a sign language in Bulgaria. The girl seized this wonderful opportunity to pick up Bulgarian Sign Language (BgSL).

Yummyugul was happy to get to know her new friends from the deaf community. She is thankful for their help in the learning process. It is through the observation of her friends’ natural communication that she realized how magical and beautiful gestures are. “Ever since I started using Bulgarian Sign Language comfortably, I’ve been able to communicate through my hands, which is pretty delightful. It’s both an honour and a privilege for me to speak to other people using signs. In the deaf community, we communicate with each other using just signs. We can use our beautiful hands to tell you about anything in a lovely and unique manner.” – says the Miss Deaf Stars 2018 candidate. She also shares another aspect of her story: “It was difficult for me to communicate with my hearing classmates at school. I could barely hear them, but we kept on trying to get to each other. This is why I’m really used to hearing people’s means of communication. This was a time when I didn’t know any other deaf people and didn’t have deaf friends either. When I actually met people from the deaf community, we became friends and I was really happy about it. Now I speak to them using just signs. We get on really well with each other and I feel comfortable around them.”

The lady does have some previous experience with beauty contests, but this is the first time the model has appeared on the international podium. In 2013, she participated in the Miss and Mister Deaf contest in Haskovo, coming in second place. In fact, she got the same result at the same contest through the following two years, too. This is not a big deal for her, though, as she thinks she has the courage and experience to conquer the podium in Italy. But modeling is not Yummyugul’s dream career.  “I’d love to be a fashionista one day. It’s just that I don’t have the chance to work as a designer at the moment. This is really difficult for me.”- says the lady. She’s been living in England since 2015. She’s been working at Domino’s Pizza. She likes drawing, doing sports and travelling to lovely places. She says being crowned Miss Deaf Star will give her the opportunity to make her big dream come true. It is the union of all deaf people that she truly desires. She wants them to work together, proving they’re equally capable compared to hearing people.

Nikolay Srebrinov Korchev was born in the village of Lyubcha, Dospat. He lost his hearing in infancy at just 3 months of age. Growing up among hearing peers was a real challenge for him. Nevertheless, he did his best to maintain communication based on mutual understanding. Niki lives a life on the move and strongly advocates for the legal recognition of  Bulgarian Sign Language. “I’m deaf and I communicate exclusively through signs. That’s why I’m really concerned with the future and evolution of Bulgarian Sign Language. I have plenty of deaf friends from Bulgaria and abroad. I’m glad sign language has enabled me to communicate easily with my mates using just hands.”

Nikolay is very active and purposeful. His everyday life is never boring. He enjoys learning  on the go and trying new things. Modeling is a hobby to him. Just like his fellow counterpart in MMDS, he has some experience with beauty contests. He’s currently unemployed but dreams of having a decent job and starting a family. He was motivated to participate in the international contest to gain some useful experience. “This is what gives me courage and makes me so brave,”says the lad of Devnya. He admits he has a few doubts about the international candidates he’ll be competing against, but his overall attitude to his own performance is positive.

Niki says he would be glad to be crowned Mister Deaf Stars 2018 but he’s realistic there’s no way to see the actual scores in advance. Dancing and doing sports is what’s helped him build up his stamina. These activities are not enough to guarantee his success, though. This is why Korchev has a cause – he’s Ambassador of Bulgarian Sign Language.

The contest in Caserta was organized according to the guidelines for such a prestigious event. The contestants had a week to prepare actively for the event, so that their optimal performance is guaranteed. The hosting organizations of Miss & Mister Deaf Stars had created a wonderful atmosphere for people of different nationalities and cultures to meet each other and exchange some experience. Mitko Yakimov, chairman of Foundation Deaf Unlimited Bulgaria, says the meeting had been an exciting one for it had presented an opportunity to make new friends with other deaf people. The performance of the Bulgarian duo Sally – Korchev, had been decent despite the fact that they didn’t qualify for the finals. “They never complained about the results. The most important thing about their participation is they were proud to represent Bulgaria,” is Yakimov’s comment on our candidates’ final results. Mitko Yakimov, along with his Hungarian fellow, was supervising the evaluation of  the candidates. Boryana Topchieva, whose show we recently told you about, also took part in the event being a special guest judge in the international judging committee of the contest.

Foundation Deaf Unlimited Bulgaria is an organization which aims to support deaf people in Bulgaria and defend their rights through various activities. Members of the foundation are expressing their gratitude towards Yummyugul Sally and Nikolay Korchev for being authentic Ambassadors of Bulgarian Sign Language. We must remember that legal recognition of Bulgarian Sign Language is crucial to its usage in international events, which could aid people from Bulgarian deaf community. “When deaf people from Bulgaria present our country abroad, they would be more than glad to announce that BgSL has been legally recognized and deaf people could proudly use it,” the Foundation’s statement says.

Christina Tchoparova

Photo credits: Deaf Unlimited Bulgaria

EN Translation by: Maria Mihailova

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