Visiting Uganda: Amplifying Deaf Inclusion
Our recent trip to Uganda, allowed us to witness the profound impact of Signhealth Uganda's work. We arrived at Entebbe Airport, where we were warmly received by Paul, our partner in Uganda. We then proceeded to Kampala, the capital city, to find a place to stay for the night.
Journey to Moyo
An early start marked the beginning of our long journey to Moyo, a location situated in the West Nile region. The eight-hour drive was well worth it, as it took us directly to the region we work and showed us the challenges of working in a remote location. That evening, we had the pleasure of meeting Signhealth Uganda staff members Christine and Sharon.
Our third day was dedicated to meeting district leaders and educational officials in Moyo. They all displayed a remarkable level of enthusiasm for the work ahead. Subsequently, we visited Etele Primary School in Moyo district, where we met a Parent Support Group comprising 22 members.
This group shared their experiences of the challenges they faced before the project's initiation, particularly the lack of assistance for deaf children attending school. Their accounts of transformation since the project's inception were evident. These transformations were notable, with parents expressing improved communication and understanding, and increased support for their children's educational needs.
The group's achievements were highlighted by their village saving scheme and sustainable income generation through pig farming. We also had the privilege of meeting the school's focal teacher, who emphasised the positive impact the project had on the school's community, reducing the likelihood of children dropping out.
In the afternoon, we met a group of 15 Deaf young people who had organised to support one another. Their activities included income generation, group loans and savings. We observed their determination and self-sufficiency as they engaged in activities such as gardening and crafting. Their spirit was inspiring and bringing them successes.
Our visit to Ayipe Primary School in Koboko introduced us to eight deaf children and their dedicated focal teacher, Swadick. The children shared their experiences of transitioning from being marginalised in the classroom to becoming advocates of inclusion. They emphasised the significance of learning sign language and promoting the importance of inclusion within their school community.
We also had the opportunity to meet the parents of these children, members of the school's Parent Support Group. Their commitment to learning sign language and enhancing their understanding of deafness was commendable. Their collective efforts to raise money through income generating activities for their children's education and family income were also notable, with substantial savings that had already made a positive impact on their lives.
A visit to Koboko Hospital revealed the positive effects of sign language training for healthcare workers. The training bridged communication gaps for deaf patients, greatly improving their healthcare experiences.
Arua Regional Hospital
We visited Arua regional hospital where Doreen, a deaf member staff member of Signhealth Uganda, and her team help to interpret for deaf patients during their appointments. Health workers do not know sign language so previously appointments were very difficult and the doctors and nurses had to guess what patients were saying. They have helped 65 people since April this year. The team also deliver weekly sign language training for workers at the hospital who would like to learn.
In Nebbi, we visited Signhealth Uganda's offices, where parents and teachers were meeting to discuss the project’s progress. We heard from Frank, a parent who had gained new skills and established a small-scale business through the project.
Wilfred, a teacher with a physical disability, shared his perspective, highlighting the transformation of deaf children's lives since the project's inception. He spoke of the collaboration between teachers and parents, emphasising the empowerment and readiness of all involved to continue the work.
In the afternoon, we met another deaf youth group, comprising nine members who regularly met to practice sign language and to support each other in their journey to employment and self-sufficiency. Their unity and determination were fantastic qualities to be around.
Our penultimate day in Kampala was marked by meetings with Joseph, a Signhealth Uganda board member, and discussions on future possibilities for Signhealth Uganda. Our focus was on storytelling and fundraising, and we explored various avenues to further the organisation's growth.
We visited Signhealth Uganda's offices, where we met two deaf young people, Stella and Alex. They shared their personal journeys and the profound impact of Signhealth Uganda on their lives. Stella's role as a peer educator, mentoring other deaf individuals and teaching valuable life skills, was particularly inspiring.
The Journey Back Home
Our final day in Uganda was marked by the return journey to Entebbe Airport. En route, we visited The Silent Café in Kampala, an initiative by Nasser to provide employment opportunities for deaf young people. The initiative underscored the sustainability and positive impact of projects like Signhealth Uganda.
Our journey through Uganda was an important reminder of the significance of inclusion and community support. Signhealth Uganda's work has transformed the lives of deaf individuals, and our experiences have reinforced our commitment to this cause. We hope to continue supporting and furthering the empowerment of the deaf community in Uganda.