For Suzette DaSilva, Best Start in Lancaster has been the opportunity she wishes she always had to learn about caring for children.

“An opportunity like this would have helped me growing up or even with my children,” said Suzette.

Although many parents often feel challenged raising a child, the difficulties relating to children, or anybody, are compounded for DaSilva because she is deaf.

DaSilva has attended Best Start meetings for almost three years and actively works to share her knowledge of child welfare issues and care with members of the deaf community in Lancaster.

“I talk to people who are deaf or have deaf children about neglect, abuse, health issues and the importance of eating healthy,” she said through a sign language interpreter. “Sometimes people don’t understand the culture of deaf people so it’s harder to teach these things.”

Best Start Lancaster has at least seven regular members whose presence and active involvement have encouraged partnership members to be even more sensitive to the needs of a truly diverse audience.

“I think it is important to note that while most people are aware that we need to embrace everyone with diverse needs, it is due to Suzette and other deaf member participants that we currently do work in a way that supports deaf members,” said Ellaine Hartley, program officer for Best Start Lancaster.

To help their comprehension at meetings, deaf members are provided a sign language interpreter, more time is often allotted for discussion and information may be presented in multiple ways.

DaSilva’s introduction to Best Start came from friends who invited her to a dinner meeting. What started as a curiosity and a way to get of the house has become a way to show she is dedicated to her community that others admire.

“Suzette has demonstrated commitment through her nearly perfect attendance and high volunteerism in activities supporting Best Start outside of regular meetings,” Hartley said.

Since her initial meeting, she has appreciated the opportunities to get involved in the community, meet people and learn. In particular, Best Start has helped make her into the kind of person she never was – a confident leader.

“Best Start has taught me how to be a leader and have more confidence,” she said. “This has been a positive experience for me. I come here to better my life.”