To be visiting our Comic Relief-funded deaf awareness project in Malawi during Red Nose Day itself this year has been particularly poignant for me.
It has not been straightforward to explain to the in-country team implementing our project exactly how the money is raised which supports their work. The team has always been aware of and astounded by the generosity of the British public, which has enabled this project in the Northern Region to be implemented. However, the finer details have been less clear, with the phrase “to do something funny for money” never quite being understood!
This project works to identify deaf and hearing impaired children and support them to receive a primary school education. We work directly with the children, their families, communities and schools to challenge negative cultural stereotypes about disability and support the children’s inclusion in mainstream primary schools.
I am not sure quite how successful these explanations have been, but the laughter verging on hysteria when the noses were tried on by the team will never be forgotten!
Nor will the reaction of some of the deaf and hearing impaired children who have benefited from our project.
Behind the laughter, real change can be seen in the children’s lives, as they have the support of their families and communities to attend school, often for the first time.
Perhaps for me personally, some of the most uplifting evidence of positive change is hearing from these children themselves. As their teachers and classmates begin to understand that they have special needs along with the ability to learn, the bullying and stigma attached to their disability is reduced. They now enjoy going to school and report that they have friends with whom they can play and learn together.
Thank you to the British public and Comic Relief who have supported these children and ensured their lives have changed. This is genuinely priceless!