“No man is an island,” as the saying goes, and communicating with one another is an integral part of our lives. Imagine, then, growing up deaf and being shut out of spoken language without alternative strategies for communicating.
Imagine how it would feel as a school-aged child not to be able to confide in your mum, dad or grandparents, let alone learn in school or form friendships. Imagine how it would feel if communicating was reduced to improvised hand gestures and functional messages.
This can be the reality for deaf children in less advantaged communities where we work in sub-Saharan Africa, but with our local partners we’re acting to change this. We’re providing training in communication strategies, like lip reading, finger spelling and sign language, for families with deaf children as well as teachers.
At the start of this year, we’ve been fortunate to forge a new collaboration to support this work with professionals from the world of marketing – where language is also key. The team members at Creative Culture, a cross-cultural consultancy helping companies maximise their communication efforts around the world, describe themselves as lovers of language.
They have been moved by the experiences of deaf children excluded from family and school life for lack of communication skills. As their business is addressing linguistic challenges and turning local cultural knowledge to advantage, they value the importance of communicating with people on their own terms.
So the team approached Signal with an idea to start supporting deaf children and their communities in Zambia. They have already raised awareness of deafness among their network of marketing professionals by featuring Signal in their New Year newsletter. What’s more, they have made a donation towards sign language training in the Copperbelt region of Zambia based on the number of readers who took part in a poll for their favourite story in the newsletter.
Although it is making progress on development, Zambia ranks 141 out of 187 in the United Nations’ Human Development Index, which takes into account indicators of life expectancy, educational attainment and income. Moreover, research has found that around two-thirds of deaf children in the country never attend school and only 1.7% of the deaf population is in professional or technical work.
Creative Culture’s support will help us and our partners Zambia Deaf Youth and Women help deaf children and young people to be included in the life of their families and wider communities and get a decent education. We look forward to future creative collaboration!