Making a Difference in Kenya
Two Kenyan Sign Language (KSL) classes a day, along with informal
gatherings with other Deaf Kenyans, helped us to pick up the signs
quickly and adapt to their language.
The first week in Nairobi was a whirlwind of visits: KSL classes at the University of Nairobi, visits to Kenya National Association of the Deaf, Kenya World Federation of the Deaf, Kenya Society for Deaf Children, Kenya Institute of Special Education, the Ministry of Education and other places.
After the first week was over, we all got on a bus and traveled eight hours west to a small village named Rongo, located near Lake Victoria. We stayed there for the next few weeks working with Kuja Primary and Secondary Schools for the Deaf. Also within a 10-minute bus ride was the Kamagambo College where eight Deaf Kenyan students, sponsored by GDC, were studying to become teachers of Deaf students.
When we first put our feet down at the Kuja Primary School for the Deaf (elementary school), we were immediately greeted by excited Kenyan Deaf children who extended their arms for a Kenyan handshake to welcome us to their school and their country. I was inspired and touched to see such luminous smiles from children of all ages. We spent the first few days observing classrooms, meeting teachers and children, and getting to know our way around the campus.
Our duties included co-teaching with a Kenyan teacher, providing workshops and exchanging ideas with educational staff on the educational system in Kenya. Kenya itself is the same size as Texas with over 40 Deaf schools spread throughout the country. Each Deaf school averages 80 to 100 students. A big problem in Kenya, as in most developing countries, is that teachers are trained to teach but they are not trained in sign language. Many teachers write all information on a chalkboard and point to written messages to pass on information to Deaf children. As a result, the children are not getting the optimal education they need to become successful leaders.
This whole experience left such a lasting impression with me that upon my arrival home, I joined the board of directors and then became the GDC Board President. It has been amazing to be a part of helping the organization grow. In addition to managing an incredible 13-person board of directors, I had the added opportunity to go back to Kenya and see the direct impact of GDC during the next summer.
GDC has sponsored groups of Deaf Kenyans though the teachers college and they are now being hired by the Kenyan government to be teachers and life-time mentors for other Deaf students. GDC has also helped hearing teachers at Deaf schools learn how to more effectively teach Deaf students. Best of all, the organization has given hope to hundreds of Deaf Kenyan students who now understand that they can do anything they set their minds to accomplish. I met Deaf Kenyan students that were curious if Deaf people in the United States could drive and what kind of jobs Deaf people had. On the second trip, I met the same Deaf Kenyan students who then wanted to become teachers, principals, computer specialists and lawyers. GDC is going to change thousands of lives in a very short time.
I would like to invite anyone interested in GDC to get involved-whether it be sponsoring Deaf Kenyans to become teachers or going on a trip to another country to share skills and knowledge with the Deaf communities. GDC needs you to support Deaf communities in developing countries around the world to create self-sustaining, positive cycles of Deaf education.
Global Deaf Connection (GDC) aims to develop self-sustaining, successful cycles of deaf education and leadership skills through multi-cultural exchange, support and mentoring programs. GDC currently has programs in Kenya, Jamaica and the Congo. GDC has four types of programs:
The Connection Support program builds multi-cultural connections through volunteer projects in other countries.
The Skills Support program sends teams of Deaf education professionals to Kenya to volunteer in Kenyan high schools.
The College Support program organizes special trips abroad for donors that have sponsored Deaf students through college.
The Mentor Support Program, builds on the College Support program, and is a mentoring program that matches Deaf Education teachers from the United States with beginning Deaf teachers in Kenya or other GDC target countries.
For more information on these experiences contact:
Global Deaf Connection
2901 38th Avenue, South
Minneapolis, MN 55406 USA