We had the good fortune of connecting with Evelyn Peña and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Evelyn, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
Although I wasn’t the one who started our organization, Deaf Latinos y Familias, I was blessed and trusted to continue and carry on our mission. Our thought process is to continue to support Latinx families who are raising Deaf, Hard of Hearing and non verbal children by providing them with resources and teach them American Sign Language in their native language, Spanish, all free of charge.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
At Deaf Latinos y Familias, we are a family oriented organization ran for parents by parents.
What sets us apart is that we offer free weekly family American Sign Language class in Spanish to strengthen the relationship between the parents and their Deaf children. That way they can teach their Deaf children their Latinx culture and in return they learn the Deaf culture from their children. At the end, both can be proud of their family history, traditions, and values.
What I’m most proud of is the support we have been able to provide to families not only in the US but also in Puerto Rico, Uruguay, Chile, and México, courtesy of Zoom. Also proud that we are able to feed our communities in need in partnership with LA Promise Fund at our weekly food pantry with ASL access provided by ProBono ASL.
My journey hasn’t been easy. I was a teen mom with a baby that was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy and then to being Deaf. As a young mom not knowing how to navigate the Deaf world, my Deaf son did not have access to his language during his critical language-learning years which makes it hard for him to read or write. Language deprivation is so common in our Latinx community that I have made it my personal mission along with DLyF to make sure that families raising young Deaf children not make the same mistakes I made. The “I could’ve, should’ve, would’ve” is in the past and although guilt is what drives me to continue, I’m learning to put that aside and show parents that their voice matters and to advocate for their children whether their Deaf, Hard of Hearing, non verbal or have any Unique Needs. Be their voice but do not speak for them, include them in all your conversations.
I would like the world to know that a Disability doesn’t define that person, get to know them first before you judge them. Disability doesn’t define their Ability!!!
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I would like to dedicate this shoutout to our Instructors, Board Members, Interpreters and Volunteers. Without them, this organization wouldn’t be where we are. A special shoutout also to my children, Richard, Darlin, Heaven and my amazing supportive husband, Wilson Peña. They have always pushed me to keep pushing forward when I felt defeated. Mil gracias to all of you!!
Other: PO Box 1467 Los Angeles, CA 90001