Raija Nieminen, a deaf woman from Finland, had been leading a very full life as both a librarian and mother of two children. Then her husband Jukka won an exciting new job designing the harbor in the Caribbean island of St. Lucia. Raija suddenly needed to start her life over again in a small, hot, developing country where both the hearing and deaf populations used languages foreign to her. Voyage to the Island recounts the remarkable story of how she adjusted to a strange, exotic island, first by seeking out other deaf persons and learning their sign language. Later, she met Alfonso, a deaf child and an orphan, and realized that he was only one of many deaf children who needed her help. Soon, Raija was teaching at the island’s school for the deaf. Her vivid stories of daily frustration mixed with moments of exhilaration at the school make Voyage to the Island an unforgettably moving book. It becomes even more poignant against the backdrop of her own accomplishments as a deaf person advocating complete communication among all people in all communities.
Raija Nieminen is Cultural Director of the Finnish Deaf Association.