Aurora of Central New York teacher speaks to a student in sign language

Aurora of Central New York

“Community accessibility remains a challenge for many refugees even after they learn our language, but we noticed it was a bigger struggle for the ones with hearing loss.”

Unfamiliar transportation, customs, cultures and languages are a few of the common barriers refugees face upon relocating to a new country. Human services organizations provide basic support in these areas, but some are facing another hurdle that makes it even more difficult to navigate through those adjustments: being deaf.

“Community accessibility remains a challenge for many refugees even after they learn our language, but we noticed it was a bigger struggle for the ones with hearing loss,” said Debra Chaiken, president of Aurora of Central New York. “It’s hard enough to learn a new language as it is, but it becomes a bigger challenge with those circumstances.”

According to Hearing Loss Association of America, approximately 20% of Americans aged 18 and over report some trouble hearing. Staff at Aurora noticed that the number of refugees with hearing loss that they were serving had steadily increased over the past few years. The organization, which offers resources and support for those with hearing and/or vision loss, realized that a staff member solely focused on deaf interpreting would make a world of difference.

With the help of a Community Foundation grant, Aurora hired Monu Chhetri last year to assume a part-time position while training to acquire the skills needed to become a certified deaf interpreter and a job readiness coach for refugees who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Monu Chhetri trained to become a certified deaf interpreter.
Monu Chhetri trained to become a certified deaf interpreter.

“After my mother and I immigrated to Syracuse from a Nepalese refugee camp, I began to learn American Sign Language,” said Chhetri. “I noticed other refugees were isolated from engaging in the community and wanted to do what I could to help them adjust to their new lives.”

Being deaf herself, Chhetri learned Nepalese Sign Language in the Nepalese refugee camp she grew up in and later spent three years in a special program for deaf children in India where she learned Indian Sign Language and English. Upon relocating to Syracuse, Monu and the other refugees would gather regularly in her home where they practiced American Sign Language and American culture.

Chhetri’s experience working with other refugees and her extensive year-long training at Aurora, made her great fit for the deaf interpreter position. She now teaches weekly sign language classes and provides job training through the organization’s pre-vocational and job placement programs. Many of the refugees with hearing impairments have struggled with access to community resources and service providers due to language and cultural barriers. Aurora now delivers a total of 14,900 hours of interpreting services yearly, and visitors can utilize community resources more easily with the help of Chhetri.

“Our organization has been strengthened since adding Chhetri to our staff and she has truly changed the lives of so many refugees,” said Chaiken. “We are proud to support these individuals in learning the appropriate language, culture, resources and eventually job readiness skills to live with independence and opportunity.”

Monu plans to continue her impactful work, which now holds new meaning to her after recently receiving her American Citizenship. “I am truly touched by all the love and support I’ve received from my family, friends and co-workers,” said Monu. “My work has been so rewarding. Being a Citizen of the United States is something I am so thankful for, and I can’t wait to help others achieve the same thing.”

Related Stories

What We Are Up To: CNYCF Staff Updates
Topics April 23, 2024

What We Are Up To: CNYCF Staff Updates

Check out what our staff has been up to.

Cortland Bright Ideas 2024
News Releases April 17, 2024

$55,000 In Grants Awarded to Cortland County Nonprofits

Applicants were invited to submit a ‘bright idea’ for enhancing their nonprofit and explain how ...

Woman standing in office
Stories March 19, 2024

Giving Seamlessly: Leyla Morgillo

Giving has always been intrinsic to Leyla Morgillo's being whether it be through her time ...

hand holding growing money
Publications March 5, 2024

FAQS: A Snapshot of Clients’ Tax-Time Charitable Giving Questions

With the year is in full swing, now is a good time for advisors to ...

Men gardening
Blogs March 5, 2024

A safe space for Deaf New Americans to develop education, leadership, and life skills without limitation

Monu Chhetri, founder & CEO of Deaf New American Advocacy, Inc. explains how her participation ...

Group of people at event
Publications March 5, 2024

Collaborative Engagement with Nonprofit Partners

Giving Voice Winter 2024: Granting Matters

Woman sitting with young children
Publications March 5, 2024

Meet Our New President & CEO

Giving Voice Winter 2024: Cover Story

two children playing in a playhouse smiling to camera
Stories March 5, 2024

What's Happening

Giving Voice Winter 2024: What's Happening

What We Are Up To: CNYCF Staff Updates
Topics April 23, 2024

What We Are Up To: CNYCF Staff Updates

Check out what our staff has been up to.

Cortland Bright Ideas 2024
News Releases April 17, 2024

$55,000 In Grants Awarded to Cortland County Nonprofits

Applicants were invited to submit a ‘bright idea’ for enhancing their nonprofit and explain how ...

Woman standing in office
Stories March 19, 2024

Giving Seamlessly: Leyla Morgillo

Giving has always been intrinsic to Leyla Morgillo's being whether it be through her time ...

hand holding growing money
Publications March 5, 2024

FAQS: A Snapshot of Clients’ Tax-Time Charitable Giving Questions

With the year is in full swing, now is a good time for advisors to ...

Men gardening
Blogs March 5, 2024

A safe space for Deaf New Americans to develop education, leadership, and life skills without limitation

Monu Chhetri, founder & CEO of Deaf New American Advocacy, Inc. explains how her participation ...

Group of people at event
Publications March 5, 2024

Collaborative Engagement with Nonprofit Partners

Giving Voice Winter 2024: Granting Matters

Woman sitting with young children
Publications March 5, 2024

Meet Our New President & CEO

Giving Voice Winter 2024: Cover Story

two children playing in a playhouse smiling to camera
Stories March 5, 2024

What's Happening

Giving Voice Winter 2024: What's Happening

View More