Hearing-impaired student wins global award

Mark of pride: Jane Christine beaming as she holds up her World Changer Award certificate.

A STUDENT who communicates only through sign language due to a hearing impairment has won an award from the Special Education Network and Inclusion Association (Senia).

Jane Christine Justine was announced the recipient of the World Changer Award on Senia’s website on Jan 4. It was in recognition of her role in leading her team to winning innovation competitions, both locally and internationally, while using sign language.

“I’m extremely happy to win the award. This was my first time being a team leader. I never expected that I’d gain such an accomplishment. I hope to take part in activities that will challenge me further, ” the 19-year-old told StarEdu in a text message.

It all began when Jane Christine from Keningau Vocational College, Sabah, teamed up with three other students to initiate a project called Veganbond, with the aim of producing their own vegan food and raising public awareness of the benefits of a vegan lifestyle.

Starting out, they experimented with various ingredients to produce nuggets that were made of plants yet had the taste and texture of meat when fried, said the college in a press release.

After several attempts, they finally decided on the use of tofu as the meat substitute for their vegan nuggets. Their product born, the team went on to take part in innovation competitions last year.

Through their participation, they hoped to encourage the public to reduce excessive intake of meat products, which have significantly harmed the environment through poor farming practices, as well as perpetuated animal captivity and cruelty, said the press release.

Their effort saw them winning three medals in a local innovation competition and two global innovation contests held in the United Kingdom and in Southeast Asia, all of which were hosted virtually by the respective organisers.

Veganbond was also a finalist in the 2020 Youth Solutions Report produced by the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network Youth (SDSN Youth).

At the competitions, Jane Christine used sign language to convey her ideas and message, while her teammates – culinary arts students Chrisvee Neville Juhulis and Cerlye Saidin, and another special education unit student Jisa Bacxter – carried out their oral presentations.

Her participation was a break from tradition for these event organisers, leading them to make changes to accommodate special needs individuals, as only oral presentations had been allowed in the past.

Keningau Vocational College director Johari@Jaibet Sabin expressed his pride in the team’s achievements, which he saw as a significant step to revolutionising special needs education and changing public perspectives on individuals with disabilities, said the press release.

Special education teacher Kan Fook Keong, who mentored the team together with English language teacher Mohd Sirhajwan, said: “Jane Christine is a hardworking girl. She makes an effort to learn and to take part in competitions. She is confident and has a lot of ideas to contribute to the team. Her disability is no hindrance at all.

“We hope the community will better understand people with special needs and give them more chances for a brighter future.

“I also hope the Sabah government will give more support to the special needs groups, and improve facilities and education opportunities for special needs students.”

Jane Christine’s efforts have successfully broken the barriers for special needs individuals, especially those with hearing impairments, said a statement on Senia’s website.

To watch a video of their presentation, go to https://youtu.be/pE774orv8OI.

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