Read the following email correspondence: Zambia - USA - (Italy, Australia, UK) - USA - Ireland - Kenya - Zambia...
*The internet is a powerful tool for bringing aid worldwide, especially when the Deaf and Hearing collaborate*
Letter #1...A Hearing couple in Zambia working with Deaf children requests information as to how to create a Hands and Voices Chapter:
Thank you for your letter asking for more information about my family
and my desire to start a chapter in Zambia.
Let me give you a brief account of how i came into contact with the deaf. As a family we are Jehovah's Witnesses. One day in 2003 when my wife Jenny was preaching from house to house, she encountered a deaf person who wanted to know more about the bible. My wife started conducting a home bible study which proved to be difficult because that person could not read and my wife did not know sign language. My wife
approached a teacher at a nearby school who teaches deaf people to
help her with the basic sign language but he refused.
My wife was further introduced to more deaf people by the one she first met.More
deaf people started coming to our home as a result my wife started learning some bits of sign language from the deaf themselves. Then it turned out to be routen, every so often the deaf would come looking for my wife. It proved to be difficult when she was not at home because the rest of the family did not know anything about sign language, so i felt compelled to join my wife! in preaching to the deaf. We were told about a witness who lived in another district(Ndola) who knew sign language. We approached him and arranged a class at weekends with my family. We later invited other interested people to join the class. As a family we were paying all the expenses.
Later on we went to a local school and got permmission from the Headteacher to show a video "what does god require of us" in sign language.It was at that point i came to realise that the deaf children were not getting enough in terms of education. they failed to understand the signs in the tape, could not even spell their names and could not read the wall charts.I and my wife went around to meet the parents/guardians of the 13 deaf children to seek permission from them so that when their children knocks off from school the could come to my home for extra lessons in arithmetic, reading and sign language. this really improved their perfomance.
When their teacher went on leave,the Headteacher allowed us to run the class. Since none of us was a qualified teacher i had to look for two secondary school leavers, Voster and Mercy(both deaf)who started teaching the deaf children. We even invited Deaf adults who have never been to school to join the class. But when the
teacher came back from leave he created some confusions and frusrated us .We had no option but to restart our program from home in the chicken run.We would give them food before releasing them to go to their homes.
Three qualified to go to secondary school but the parents failed to meet the expenses.My daughter is the Secretary of Zambia Nation Association for the Handcapped in the province. She was one time hired by the local university to teach sign language to interested teachers as well as medical personnel. Except for my son ,my three daughters and us sign for the deaf at christian meetings.
So when icame across your website i was impressed, touched and there and then wanted to be part of it. I have read the State Chapter. The major problem here in zambia is with the parents of deaf children.Generally here in Africa when you send your child to school you expect him in return to come and look after you. So when some one
knows that the child is deaf they do not care sending them to school thinking that it is a waste of resources.The parents/family do not want to learn sign language. Now when they have a problem with the child they call on us to mediate. The general public also is a problem, they think that the deaf are not normal.The education system is bad, providing few schools for the deaf. Most of the deaf live in rural
areas and dont go to school because of the distances involved. Some are orphans and come from poor families. I am sure your organisation can do something about the deaf in Zambia or Africa as a whole.
As a family we are prepared to work with you to see how we can help the deaf in Africa. But i must confess that the sign language that we learnt is inferior to the one we see in video tapes, so we need help in this regard.
Hoping to hear from you soon.
Isaac and family
*Letter #2: Leeane sends the following email to all founding members of the International Coalition of Parents of Children who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing*
AT H&V, we get requests routinely for support, resources and information from folks all over the world. This one from Isaac is probably the most detailed to date, and my heart wrenches for a lack of ability to respond at the level where it could really help him. Surely this is just one more reason why we need the ICOP, so
there is some sort of unified vision by those of us who may be able to lend support at least thru some sort of combined effort and pooling of knowledge. What can any of us do for the folks in Zambia?
*I had just finished reading THE UNHEARD by Josh Swiller and had corresponded with him a couple of times, so I decided to "make him aware" of this letter (your basic "throw up a prayer shot" - I mean how could little old American Mamma in Tuscany help a couple in Zambia?)*
Letter #3 Superhero Swiller responds by copying me a letter he writes to his Peace Corps contact in Zambia:
Hi Cindy (and Jodi)
Long time since we've spoken last. I hope all is going amazingly well down in Zambia.
Cindy, I recall that after Peace Corps Kenya program was suspended, there was talk of moving part of the signing deaf program to Zambia.
Is that still happening? Here's why I'm wondering: attached is a letter from a remarkable hearing man in Ndola who'd like to learn more sign so that he can teach the deaf, children and adults. The interest is there, the framework is there, all they need is some instruction.
I seem to remember that Peace Corps training center is now in Ndola as well (back when I served, it was in Kabwe). If it is, and if the deaf program is operating, this seems like a perfect fit.
If not, do you know who else I could contact?
*At this point (sweating) I seriously consider hopping a plane and taking a certain course at Gallaudet*
Letter #4 Cindy replies :
Nice to hear from you!
We now have 4 deaf ed Volunteers in Zambia. They transferred to Zambia during the temporary suspension of the program in Kenya, to help us pilot a special project. (BTW, Kenya is now back up and running.) Our training site has been moved to Chongwe district, around 45 minutes outside of Lusaka.
The deaf ed Volunteers may have some ideas for your question, since they are now working with Zambian counterpart NGOs that may know about opportunities for him to learn sign. I'll pass your email on to them.
So any update on a possible trip to Zambia??
It gets better. Leeanne in the meantime, forwards me an email from an RIT student named Christie who is interested in moving to Italy to help create a Hands and Voices Chapter here.
*Guess where Christie was writing from?...Dublin*
A bit discombobulated (and-not or *smile*) from lashing rain and a thirty minute walk, I meet Christie in front of the Hard Rock Cafe in Dublin, and we go to have a coffee to discuss her many brilliant ideas. While we are speaking, I tell her about this email correspondence, and she tells me...
She has a friend working in Kenya for the Peace Corps.