A group of ten young Deaf British volunteers recently travelled to Nandi County, Kenya, where they worked alongside Deaf Kenyan volunteers to help Deaf children and young people better integrate into their local community and improve their educational opportunities.
The Deafway ICS project is being delivered in partnership by UK-based charity Deafway and international development organisation VSO, and is part of the UK Government funded International Citizen Service (ICS) programme.
After travelling to Kenya at the end of June, the team spent three months running awareness raising campaigns, creating educational materials on
Deaf issues, and organising public events to better integrate the Deaf and hearing communities. Their activities were designed to increase social, educational and economic opportunities for young Deaf Kenyans living in Nandi, who face further marginalisation within a region already bearing incredibly high levels of extreme poverty.
Deaf people in Kenya can face discrimination in social and economic life as a result of misconceptions about what it is to be Deaf. The Deafway ICS project was developed as a result of research that found Nandi County had the lowest number of community support systems for Deaf children and youth of any area in Kenya.
Before leaving, Sara Kendall, 24, one of the volunteers travelling to Kenya, said: “This is a real once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I’m from a family that has a strong Deaf identity, so I want to share that pride with the community in Kenya. It will be really interesting seeing what life is like for young, Deaf people in Kenya and helping to bring about real improvements in their lives.”
Shona Ramsay-Hogan, 21, another of the volunteers, continued: “I’m most looking forward to meeting the Deaf community in Kenya and seeing how their views on being Deaf compare to people here. I hope to make some lifelong friends, so I’m looking forward to working alongside young Deaf Kenyans and living together in our host homes. This will give us a real handle on the challenges young Deaf Kenyans face and better understand and gain the trust of the community we’re working in.”
Deafway Chief Executive David Hynes said: “This Deafway ICS initiative is so valuable because it not only improves the lives of those in the Deaf community – and young Deaf people in particular – in Nandi County, but it gives Deaf young adults the same opportunities as hearing young adults to contribute in profound ways to fight poverty and change lives overseas.”
Based in Lancashire, Deafway have links with the Deaf community worldwide and have a strong track record of working with the Nepalese and Ugandan Deaf community to improve conditions for Deaf people in vulnerable situations. At the centre of Deafway’s work is an understanding of and respect for sign language, the Deaf community and Deaf culture.
ICS allows young people aged 18-25 to contribute to sustainable development projects tackling poverty in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Before the volunteers left for Kenya, they raised between £800 and £1500 each, which will go towards making sure some of the poorest countries in the world can continue to benefit from the work of future volunteers.