This is the story of Mwawi from the Rumphi District of Northern Malawi.
When Mwawi was just three years old, she suffered a sickness which lasted for six months. Despairing that she might not survive, Mwawi’s parents took her for intensive treatment with different health personnel in a number of facilities and the child was “healed”.
But, as Mwawi recovered, her mother observed that she could no longer hear. It was difficult for the family to understand what had happened to Mwawi and how to cope. In response to her situation, they started calling Mwawi all sorts of bad names associated with hearing loss.
Eventually, aged nine, Mwawi left home to seek refuge at her grandmother’s house, some 15 kilometres from her primary school. Her grandmother showed Mwawi love, but she was unable to provide for all her basic needs, like food before going to school, because of her old age.
Mwawi instead became a carer for her grandmother. Before walking all the way to school each morning, Mwawi would clean the house and, in the rainy season, she would also cultivate the garden. She did not get the most out of lessons, because she was always already tired before going into class.
“I wanted to be with my parents, brothers and sisters, but the environment did not allow me,” Mwawi said.
Mwawi had to wait until she was 11 years old and in the sixth grade, before her wish came true. She was identified as having hearing loss as part of Signal’s work with local partner CCAP, and she and her mother were brought together to take part in our awareness and communication workshops.
This was the first chance most parents had been given to learn about the causes and signs of deafness
For most of the parents and children taking part in the workshops, this was the first chance they had been given to learn about the causes and signs of deafness. They were also equipped with communication and coping strategies. By the end of the training, the negative beliefs about deafness that Mwawi’s mother held were dispelled.
She hugged her daughter in an act of reconciliation and asked her to return home. “Forgive me! I knew nothing of your problem and how I could help you. Now I know, I promise to raise you as I raise your fellow brothers and sisters. Today, you are sleeping in my house,” she said to Mwawi.
“Thank you for these teachings, so that now I am going back home,” this brave young girl concluded.
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