While most Ngee Ann Poly students will remember them for their pizza bombs, Puzzles cafe was an initiative co-founded by Ms Suzana Slemat for a purpose that few might know about.
Together with her friend from secondary school, Ms Shazlina Sulaiman, the idea of Puzzles was to raise awareness for the Deaf community and provide support for the Deaf community, including providing employment and training for Deaf youths.
Offering discounts for people who ordered in sign at the cafe, the cafe sold their final pizza bomb in February this year and Puzzles SG now provides Deaf-Inclusive workshops for students and corporations where learners experience Deaf-Simulation are challenged to express themselves in non-verbal ways.
Describing herself as a lifelong learner, Suzana first started learning how to sign in secondary school out of curiosity. She attributes her passion for this initiative to the excitement and relief that radiates from a deaf person when they realize she can sign and communicate with them.
Hello! How did you hear of Kalpha and where do you like to host our Sharing Sessions at?
From a friend and in the West!
What do you like about Kalpha?
Zero commitment. I also like that we can chat with the Sharer/Learner before we meet. I get to understand the background or interest of the Learner to be able to fit the Session to the Learner.
How was your Sharing Session with your Learner?
I met a learner, KR, via Kalpha to share more with him about sign language. The meeting point was right outside the library and after going through a few signs and sharing stories, we entered the library. The point was to give each other instructions in non-verbal communication. Initially, we planned to do a recap and conclusion to close the session. We got so carried away in the silent activity that we spent all of the remaining time on it.
To mark the end of the session, we thanked and waved each other goodbye but actually continued our chat for another 15 minutes. We shared our views on things beyond the nature of the session’s topic. It was a great experience and I came as a sharer but left a learner.
What is one thing you want people to know about the Deaf and/or sign language?
Language deprivation occurs when a Deaf child is taught a spoken language as their native language. In order for a Deaf child to develop healthily, they should be exposed to sign language from a young age.
So how can the Hearing community contribute? Learn signs, be open, and show interest to communicate and experience the culture of the Deaf and it may snowball to love, friendship and deeper connections.
What is the one misconception that people have about sign language?
People think that I can communicate with all deaf people across the world but sign language is not universal. Even in Singapore, there is no standard sign language used by the Deaf.
What was the last thing you learned?
In a structured setting, Employee and Industrial Relations
In a non-structured setting, control measures after risk assessment (Honestly, I can’t remember all these theories)
What is the best thing that you have learned?
Learning to take time to reflect and think about the stillness of the present. We naturally and constantly strive for more (better grades, more memories, more holidays, more skills etc.) and this is good, because this mindset stems from wanting to be prepared for the future. But sometimes we fail to understand how powerful it is to simply be aware of the ecosystem that we exist in and the kinds of perspective we can get by simply being aware.
Any random thing that you want to learn or ask about?
Any Singaporean that has experience in travelling in a home van / camper van, please share your stories and tips with me. I have a list of questions that I want to go through!
Any final shoutouts?
Sign language is best learned from a native sign language user! It would be great if more people learned how to sign from someone that uses it on a daily basis and I hope that the Singapore Sign Language (SGSL) can become the fifth official language in Singapore.
Puzzles SG is a social enterprise that focuses on Deaf employment, awareness, and Inclusive Workshops; check out their instagram page here!
Suzana is also on Kalpha to share about how we can break the first barrier of communication with the Deaf.
Download Kalpha and connect with Suzana to learn more!