Seeing Donna at first glance you might just think of her as your average person, going about her day just like everyone else. She has her small business on the seaside at Orchard Beach in Hopewell Hanover. But what you will realise after a while is that Donna Hunt is actually someone with special needs.
She has been unable to hear or speak since birth and it was her sister Sentrena Riley who has been her ears and voice ever since. It’s a marvel to see how well they communicate with each other.
Passing through Hopewell you can always see Donna selling her wares by the sea and it has always seemed so interesting that despite her limitations she has ventured into the world of business.
Finally, with the help of Geraldine Thompson, a special educator acting as a translator, and Donna's sister Sentrena, we were able to know Donna’s story and now we are sharing it with you.
You can watch the video of Donna Hunt sharing her story with us below:
Donna began selling her wares many years ago. With the help of her husband, who ventures out to sea in the mornings to gather the various sea items that she sells as well as gather the fruits she sells whenever they are in season, she is able to have a successful business just on the seashore with other vendors.
Donna sells seashells, starfish, sea fans, sea eggs and conch shells that can either be used for decoration purposes or to make jewellery.
She also makes baskets. How did she learn? Purely out of her head. She just sat down, and from trial and error, she was able to not only make her baskets but when she became more proficient, she came up with original designs as well.
She remembers fondly, a time when she had just started making her baskets when she would prick her fingers quite often on the needle. But that is all in the past and Donna is an accomplished and avid basket maker.
Donna is also a mother and grandmother with one son and two grandbabies living close by.
Can a deaf individual read and write?
While it is quite normal for individuals who are deaf to be able to read and write, Donna personally is unable to do so very well. She relies on her sister and her husband quite a lot for assistance with communicating with others.
Does Ms Donna enjoy music?
Absolutely! She is able to feel the vibration of the music and rock along just like the rest of us.
Actually, Donna is a very good dancer and quite enjoys singing as well. She treated us to a little performance while we were there.
Does her special needs make her feel isolated in any way?
Not in Donna’s case. Despite her special needs, which has their limitations, Donna has had a very happy life surrounded by her family, friends, and the general population of Hopewell, Hanover. Also, being able to operate her own business and meet new people from all over the world, she doesn’t feel isolated at all.
The people of the community too, try to communicate with her as much as they know how so Donna does not feel bothered in that regard.
How to get in touch with Donna
If you would like to get in touch with Donna you can contact her sister Sentrena Riley at 876-498-6310.
What makes Jamaica special?
For Donna, it's the sea, the people and being able to operate her little business. Being able to go out to sea in the mornings to gather her wares and sell them by the seaside on Orchard Beach is very special to Donna. The people of her community are also warm and welcoming which makes living and working alongside them a treat for Donna.
Her sister Sentrena loves the fact that she is able to help her sister in this way. Although Donna is the older of the siblings, it was Sentrena who has taken on the role of guiding and caring for her sister.
She remembers her grandmother telling her as a little girl, that she was the one who could hear and speak. So she should use this to help Donna communicate with the rest of the world and be her ears and voice. I must say she is doing an excellent job of that.
If you are on your way to Negril from Montego Bay, you can stop by and meet Donna in Hopewell, Hanover. You will see her stall on the seaside of Orchard Beach just across from the Hopewell Community Centre.
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