Signal’s International Programmes Manager Karen Goodman-Jones gives thanks for bicycles…
In the UK you might assume this headline referred to a club of cycling enthusiasts. But in Uganda and Malawi this is far from the truth. Groups of bicycle users here are providing vital support to deaf children and young people and their families in isolated rural communities.
This is all thanks to friends of Signal who donated towards the purchase of 20 bikes for Uganda. With the donors’ generosity and enthusiasm we managed to purchase some 20 bikes for Malawi as well!
In both countries these bikes are being used by volunteers trained through our programmes. Each volunteer aims to find and support around five deaf youngsters and their families in remote communities. They are also using the bikes to meet with and strengthen support groups for parents of deaf children in their geographical areas.
The volunteers impart information on communication techniques, good ear hygiene and the dangers of using herbs to treat ear infections. Moreover, they offer encouragement that deaf children can learn and succeed. They are often parents of deaf children themselves. Meet Milka, a police constable in Arua, northern Uganda, who has been trained as a “peer leader” by our partners Signhealth Uganda.
Milka told us: “My hope was shattered the day I was told that my only daughter is deaf! As we were struggling to find help, a nurse told me about a group of other parents with deaf children supported by Signhealth Uganda. I am blessed to have joined this group. We have learned a lot about our children and sign language and I am now able to train other parents and this bike has helped a lot.
“I was elected by our group as the peer leader in charge of Vurra sub-county, and it was hard for me to get transport to the centre 10km away to offer training and meetings for parents mobilised in my community. Now, thanks to the bike, I have one of the most active parents’ groups and we are able to share a lot of issues including visiting families with problems.”
In Uganda and Malawi the bikes are easing the cost of transport for the parents to meet as groups, as well as enabling them to reach out to more deaf children and their families in their catchment areas.