CISS Secretary General Visits Bahamas and Puerto Rico
Since 1924, CISS's membership has grown from 6 to 84 nations. Oddly, there is only one nation from the Caribbean and Central America region that is affiliated with CISS. Therefore, one of the CISS goals for the new quadrennium (2001-2005) is to expand membership base in the Caribbean and Central America. Personal contacts and leadership seminars would do this. The CISS Executive Committee assigned this responsibility to Dr. Donalda Ammons, CISS Secretary General.
Prior to making personal contacts with the deaf in the Caribbean and Central America, Dr. Ammons consulted with Maria de Bendequz, the zone 2 representative of Pan American Deaf Sports Confederation (PANAMDES) for her guidance. For the Caribbean, Ms. Bendequz was able to provide Dr. Ammons with contact information for only five islands out of 20 islands. She strongly suggested that better and positive results would come from making personal appearances first before setting up a seminar.
On that account, Dr. Ammons made the initial contacts in early November with deaf organizations and National Olympic Committees in those five Caribbean islands. The only reply she received was from Ms. Elizabeth Rios, Secretary of Sordos de Puerto Rico Inc. After exhaustive demographic survey of the deaf population in the Caribbean, Dr. Ammons decided to select the Bahamas and Puerto Rico as the first two Caribbean islands to work with.
Meeting with Mrs. Burnett at the Red Cross Centre for Deaf Children, where a total of fifty-four young deaf children attend for primary education, turned out very productive, as she introduced Dr. Ammons to Marvin Finlayson, a fine young deaf teacher at the center and also a well-respected leader in the deaf community.
In the evening of 9 January, a group of 7 deaf Bahamians and Mr. Finalyson appeared at the lobby of Marriott Hotel for a meeting. Dr. Ammons explained how they could set up an organization with focus on sports for the deaf and the necessary procedures before applying for membership. Requirements and obligations of an affiliated member of CISS were outlined. They explained to Dr. Ammons that the deaf have been playing basketball in a hearing league in Nassau and have not competed against other deaf teams ever. They are very much looking forward to becoming a part of the CISS family in the near future.
10 January- Dr. Ammons contacted Ms. Elizabeth Rios, a deaf Telephone Relay Service account manager for Sprint Company and Secretary of Sordos de Puerto Rico, to set up a time and place for an informational meeting. Ms. Rios is a well-known leader and advocate of the Deaf community in Puerto Rico.
Next day, 11 January, Ms. Rios and Dr. Yolanda Rodriquez, a recent doctoral graduate of Lamar University in Houston, Texas and President of Sordos de P.R. Inc. met with Dr. Ammons for nearly five hours.
Dr. Rodriquez asked a real good question relating to eligibility. Since the island is a territory of the United States, all Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens. Would CISS recognize Puerto Rico as a separate entity from the United States and would allow Puerto Rican athletes to compete? Dr. Ammons made a quick research and found out that the International Olympic Committee does recognize all territories independently and separately. Therefore, Puerto Rico should be recognized as a self-autonomous country.
Dr. Ammons encouraged both women to start communicating with the P.R. National Olympic Committee while they work on the constitution and by-laws. All pertinent information on the affiliation procedures was given to both Dr. Rodriquez and Ms. Rios.
Dr. Ammons also provided information on the upcoming seminar for deaf representatives from the Caribbean Islands and Central America in Venezuela this coming August, which is funded by the International Olympic Committee. Both Bahamas and Puerto Rico promise to send two representatives! There also would be a Deaf Youth Athletics Meet for all interested deaf runners from the Pan America region in Venezuela shortly after the seminar. They are determined to bring some young deaf runners to compete in that meet.
CISS is looking forward to welcoming new members from the Caribbean and Central America in the very near future.