Deaf teenager proving a real inspiration

Mia Ward is in the running for a YOPEY award (below)
Mia Ward is in the running for a YOPEY award (below)

A profoundly deaf teenager who is helping to inspire others is in a competition that showcases the achievements of young people in Hertfordshire.

Mia Ward, 18, of Hemel Hempstead, has overcome barriers and delivered training, including British Sign Language, to others.

Now she has been entered in Mitsubishi Electric Young People of the Year, or YOPEY.

Mia, of Little Road, was put forward by Julie Bayford, youth participation leader at the Phoenix Group for Deaf Children, which helps children and young people across the county who have a hearing loss and their families.

It provides social and educational activities and residential weekends with an outdoor theme.

Mia, who has been profoundly deaf since birth, was with the charity when it started 10 years ago.

Julie said Mia had assessed and addressed her own personal anxieties to overcome communication barriers, leading to her successfully training to teach others about deafness and British Sign Language.

She has voluntarily delivered training about deaf awareness to organisations across Herts, including primary schools, a fire station, sports centres and youth connexions to make services more accessible for other deaf people to use.

“She put on a very good training session for driving instructors from across the county because of the added difficulties of people with hearing loss,” Julie said.

“This has led to Mia and a profoundly deaf young man being able to take driving lessons to give them more independence.”

Over the past year she has taught a British Sign Language level 1 adult class under the guidance of Phoenix Group. Julie said that Mia’s bubbly and positive attitude makes it a pleasure to be taught by her.

She taught sign language to 75 young people on a sport apprenticeship course, and also taught sign language to the families of deaf children. This included youngsters from the age of five up to grandparents.

Earlier this year Mia secured £1,700 funding through the Starbucks Community Fund for a project.

She led on writing the application for the money for a community project bringing deaf and hearing young people together. She attended a training day and pitched the idea to a panel of professionals.

The week-long project in August involved teaching BSL to hearing peers and provided a range of social activities that the young people could enjoy together while practising their BSL skills.

Julie says Mia’s determination to change hearing people’s perception about deafness was admirable.

Mia said: “I can’t express enough how much the group helped me; they support me in every step.

“I was nervous to talk with strangers and sometimes ask for help but I overcame this challenge because Phoenix taught me how to communicate in the right, easy way. The group has boosted my confidence.”

Mia said that teaching deaf awareness means so much to her because she can understand the difficulties faced by each side. “Almost every day I tell people to please have an eye contact with me so I can lip read you,” she said.

“So often I am spreading awareness and also in Phoenix we taught Deaf Awareness courses so I think I made an impact on people who want to know how things could be better and improved.”

Mia wants to be a BSL teacher and is now studying at level three and shadowing her teachers. She wants to work with young deaf adults to support, educate and encourage them. She would also like to travel the world, to explore different countries’ language and culture.

The YOPEY competition marks the 10th anniversary of YOPEY and the place where it all began with the first contest in Hertfordhsire in 2005.

Since then thousands of young people have entered competitions in different counties of England and across the whole of Scotland to give their generation a fairer image in the media, earning cash prizes for themselves and for good causes.

This competition has £2,000 to give away – a top prize of £800, with £400 for the winner and the same amount for a good cause of their choice. There is a prize of £400 for the second place, £200 each for the third and top junior, all similarly shared.

Do you know somebody who deserves the title Young Person of the Year? To nominate logon to www.yopey.orgor write, enclosing a stamped-addressed-envelope, to YOPEY, Woodfarm Cottage, Bury Road, Stradishall, Newmarket CB8 8YN for a paper entry form. Entries close October 14.