School community learning to sign N in Nebbi District in Uganda

Bringing dreams within reach in Uganda

Our work with communities in Northern Uganda to improve learning, communication and self-worth is making a difference to over 1,500 deaf and hearing impaired children and young people. This work now covers all nine districts of the hard-to-reach West Nile area.

We are engaging with both settled and refugee communities here in partnership with Signhealth Uganda. Challenges include poverty and traditional beliefs which associate deafness with witchcraft.

Deaf teenager by the house he built in Northern Uganda

Reagan by the house he built in Nebbi District

16-year-old Reagan became deaf after suffering from meningitis as a baby. He is the only one in his large family who cannot hear and he faces difficulties in communicating with the people around him. Such difficulties mean that deaf children may start school at a later age or end up repeating grades.

Reagan dropped out of primary school in grade six of seven. He lives with his mother Grace in a village in Nebbi District. His mother and his father Paul are members of one of the parent support groups that we have formed around local schools. Group members as well as deaf and hearing children are benefiting from our deaf awareness and sign language training.

Grace said:

“We did not know how to communicate with Reagan, we were just gambling gestures. It was difficult to understand many times, but now we can sign some words like greetings after the training.”

Reagan shared that he is unhappy when other children call him “abobo”, meaning stupid, and don’t consider him normal. Hearing peers took some time to understand deafness, until one bright child shared that deaf children are also normal children, because they eat the same food, stay in the same homes, play and participate in class together.

Paul said of his deaf son:

“He is a very hard-working boy who digs and builds in order to earn a living.”

Reagan dreams of developing his trade skills in construction and carpentry, if he gets the chance.

Deaf young women trying hairdressing in Central Uganda

Deaf young women trying hairdressing in Masaka

Many thanks to The True Colours Trust and other trusts and individuals for supporting our educational work in Uganda.

Happily, we have also won initial backing from the Big Lottery Fund to start up work placements with mentoring for deaf teenagers and young people. This will happen in West Nile in the North and in Greater Masaka in Central Uganda, building on our experience of supporting deaf youth with our partners in Tanzania and Zambia.

Headline photograph:
school community learning to sign “N” in Nebbi District in West Nile.

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