Abraham Namukoa
KENYA


 


Paper on the deaf situation
 

Introduction

Reformed Church of East Africa (RCEA), is a church with its headquarters found in Eldoret  town within the Rift Valley province of Kenya. She has 4 presbyteries, thus Western, Northern, southern and Eastern. Under each presbytery we have several parishes which are formed by amalgamation of several local churches, all over the region. This includes Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania

 

CARE department

Within the RCEA we have CARE department which is basically a developmental wing of the church. This is the diaconal (deacons) ministry of the church, where through our presbyteries, parishes and local churches, have established a structure to reach out and serve the needy in the community. Through this ministry, it has enabled the church to fundraise with an aim to serve the vulnerable and facilitate development  in the community.

Among the department's objectives are:

-Improving food security

-establish income generating activities (IGA's)

-Capacity building to the community

-integrate person with disability in all programs

-local resource mobilization

The main vision of this department, is, empowering the community and allows them own the programs, to achieve self sustenance.

 

Its through the move to serve the needy in the community that this department faced a great challenge.

 

Post election violence

Post-election violence in the wake of Kenya’s December 27,2007 general Election triggered a humanitarian crisis affecting most severely the Rift valley, Western, Central,  and Nyanza provinces, as well as poor urban neighborhoods in Nairobi, Kisumu and Eldoret .  The conflict resulted in displacement of about 500,000 people mainly along ethnic lines. At the peak of the crisis, about half of the internally displaced persons IDPs live in either formal or informal IDPs camps, while the other half were staying with host families.

 

Rosemary Saina (Deaf leader), in grey checks, calls Deaf beneficiaries by their sign names, using the cards as they line up ready to receive benefit non-food items (blanket, soap, sweater, sanitary towels, cups and plates). Chris (CRWRC) is in white

There came a question on IDP's with disability. It came in to my notice that IDP's who are either deaf or hard of hearing suffered silently in the aftermath of this violence. Since they couldn’t go to the official camps, a larger number of these members partly camped in churches. Then on facing the fruits of negligence, they adopted different coping strategies, for example moving to very cheap rental houses (slums) and young deaf girls opted to prostitution .

 

You may ask yourself as to how did the ethnical calashes affect the deaf yet they communicate using Sign language- a language that had no issue with election? I got my answer from  testimonies shared by some affected  deaf women.

I was married through a church wedding  with to a man of different tribe from mine, both of us are deaf-- I wish I knew the December 2007 election could lead to our divorce. – I  received a rude shock when my husband openly told me that, together with his family are no longer, in need of me, since people from my community betrayed them during the election time. As if that wasn’t enough, he went further and married a woman from his own tribe (Hearing woman) ---. I have one child and now I even cant tell where my parent family are, since they were evicted and houses burned  during the violence.---’’

 

A single deaf mother. Her parents' house was burned.

Another testimony from a young deaf Girl "—My mother died in the year 2001 just after a long illness due to stress that resulted from the 1997 ethnical clashes that resulted to burning of our house--- last year 2007 the same thing happened, this time it was worse than I ever expected----- I am the only daughter in our family and my father loved me very much--- I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw my father's reaction after witnessing our house being burned—He took a machete (panga) and run direct to me ready to kill me claiming that I am the opposite community and I have burned the house , so he needs to revenge. – Neighbors came to rescue the situation and my father I am told was taken to Muranga (His ancestral home). Since I was borne, I have never gone to Muranga. I have been thinking that Chepterit was my home., I have suffered yet  I even didnt  vote, cant communicate in my  what they call my language because I am deaf. --- I was forced to move and now I stay at Kipkaren, I stay in a house that I pay 500 Kenyan shillings per month,--- I  have my baby that I got immediately after my primary school, he is 2 years old--- I get little coins from washing cloths for willing neighbors for 20 ksh or some time on   lucky day 50 ksh. Some times they refuse to pay me money, and instead give me food to eat, I refuse eating, not because I am satisfied but I remember my child at home has nothing to eat----- The government says people should go back home.My home is ashes, and my father’s where about isn’t known. Where do I go-----?’

Houses burned at Burnt Forest.

Some Deaf IDPs and their leaders at AIC center Eldoret paying attention to Rosemary (not seen). Abraham RCEA relief coordinator is in yellow  and Chris, CRWRC country relief manager, is in white T-shirt

Another testimony from 4 deaf girls "---- Yes we work in the bar, our homes were destroyed, and even our parents are very poor--- she is a total orphan--- we do this because we cant pay our house rent, buy food, cloths and medication.---- yes when a man comes we accept, some times the gentle one pay 100kenyan shillings  for the service and some times they finish and march away without paying, we try ask them for pay but ----maybe they don’t understand our language—yes if I get support I can stop this , because I don’t like what I do but I have no option. I am willing to go back to school and have vocational training but---’" 

 

Current problems facing the deaf IDP's community are:

-No food; from the onset of the post election violence, the deaf IDPs in Rift valley and other part of our church operation have never received any food support since they are forgotten by the lead humanitarian organizations .

-clothing

-Psychosocial support ; many deaf have adopted negative coping strategies such as prostitution.

Abraham in black with IDPS who survived the Kiambaa PCEA burned church. They lost their loved ones who had gone to seek refuge in the church.

-Education support - many deaf have been stopped from going to school due to parents attaching post election violence to the luck of fees. We have very few schools for the deaf in Kenya, and they are too expensive that becomes a great burden for parents to educate the deaf, especially the deaf girl children.

 

RCEA care department’s interventions

Through support from CRWRC (Christian, Reformed World Relief Committee ) we have been able to identify and serve over 70 families of the deaf IDPs just within Eldoret town. We were able to give NFIs (non food items) to the deaf displaced families and also offered psychosocial support to this community.   

The woman carrying a baby is a deaf woman from Kiambaa 70 km from eldoret town. She lost the husband and 8 years old son. She communicate using gestures since she didn't have an opportunity to go to school. Her parents didn't give preference to her due to disability.

Also through the department,  we have been able to request one private ECD teacher training collage within Eldret town to integrate the deaf for post-secondary education since we have no similar program in the country’s government institutions.  We offer free consultation to the college since it’s a new program and help the deaf learners pay fees, just through individual fundraising. We are also searching for a sponsor to support paying of sign language interpreter for the program so as to make it affordable to the deaf parents.  The course takes one year/ 3terms that costs abut 13,400 per term. Currently, we have two deaf girls already joined the college. 5 more have applied for September intake. If this succeeds, by may 2009 we will have the first trained deaf ECD teachers in the country.


Observations

From my observations it has been clear that the deaf girl child and women are the most vulnerable in the community,

Just from the testimonies above its vivid that this group needs more attention , not only for the relief intervention but also in capacity build up or empowerment . Just as a Hearing women and Girl child calls for special attention, the Deaf Girl child and women needs it more.

The RCEA Moderator (holding white paper) and the deputy moderator addressing the press on the IDPS about IDPs issues.

Way forward

 

It has been common for parents and the community to neglect the deaf Girls, especially after primary or secondary schools. This has been greatly been contributed to, by the few and expensive vocational alternatives for the deaf .The government has been trying to bridge the gap though too slow to cuter for the increased need. We only have one government Primary teacher training college that has integrated the deaf, however the entry grade is to high that leaves not more than 7 deaf learner to qualify for it every year.

The deaf girl child  is a victim of negligence, that has resulted  to many young deaf mothers especially after school. Its very shocking that many young deaf Girls opt for early marriage, prostitution and even some suffer silently the results of sexual harassment.
 

Empowering the deaf Girl

Chris country relief manager CRWRC in white T-shirt , Abraham RCEA in yellow with some post election IDPs at the site in Burnt Forest (for baseline survey).

Already we have 2 girls as the first deaf group beneficiaries for the ECD teachers training college in Eldret. We look forward to encouraging more parents to allow their deaf children, especially the girls to join the college .

The most challenging part is, raising college fee for the deaf learners. Many parents are very poor to meet the cost of educating their children, this is complicated more when it comes to less advocacy, that leads to parents giving more priority  their hearing children.

 

-We are encouraging deaf women to establish associations and through them achieve empowerment.

We intent to use the association as a strategy for advocacy,

and through them achieve our departments objectives . The deaf people also can equally contribute to community development if given a chance and an opportunity to do so

The RCEA conference centre burned by unknown people because it was used to keep relief food to support the targeted community.

 

Conclusion

Visions are just statements on the paper if not sheared out and implemented. It’s a great lie if I say that I know all the challenges the deaf go through in my country, even if I do it cant fit a one day narration. I feel frustrated, when I cant just help!  I am just a trained Graduate special education  teacher, specialized in teaching the deaf, I have a 4 years experience of teaching in secondary schools for the deaf. I left classroom  teaching and joined the Christian organization in community work, its one year now . I promised  my self to open my eyes , when we say ‘community work’ and fail to integrate persons with disability, then it means that, our ‘community’ need to change and accept the reality or a ‘real community’ (integrated community). I a peal for any well wishers to join and help us achieve our visions , through counseling, advice and even financially if possible. I am very ready to learn, share more and even sacrifice for the sake of the deaf community. May God bless  you all for giving time to my mail.