Guardian shares experience

Family in Western Uganda

How old was your Davis when you met him?
Davis was born deaf. He’s the son of my neighbour in Kayanga village, Rukungiri – Western Uganda. I met him when he was a young boy and have known him for over 13 years.

What was your reaction when you first met him?
He came looking for me at my home and desperately requested that I support him to go to school. I was deeply perplexed because I didn’t know how to explain the difficulties I had to meet his request. I felt so bad because I have a deafblind son who could not ‘voice’ such a request and who couldn’t go to school because of the nature of his disability; yet here was a deaf boy who clearly expressed his desire! I couldn’t communicate through Sign Language because at that time, I didn’t know the language.

But Davis was so persistent – he wrote down everything with clarity, and I was impressed by his intelligence and superb communication abilities. Also I was astonished at his boldness to approach me without feeling afraid. His determination motivated me to believe that I could do something and made a final decision to bring him to Kampala where I enrolled him at Uganda School for the Deaf. He was admitted in primary five, completing primary seven at the same school. He had previously completed Primary seven in a hearing school, but didn’t perform well – so he was made to repeat.

How did the family react towards his deafness?
Davis is dearly loved by his parents and entire family because of his jovial nature. He relates well with everyone, and it doesn’t matter whether you understand him or not, he endeavours to participate in all family functions. He is very hard working, active and social. There is nothing he cannot do at home and completes all home chores with such precision! You needn’t tell him what to do because he’s self-driven. When he sees something that needs to be done, he does it! Everyone at home admires him and embrace him as family member.

What were the main challenges you experience in raising your child?
Communication. In the early days I found it very tough to interact with Davis – although I had a great urge to sign! He was always patient with us, courteous and communicated through writing. But eventually I found written communication cumbersome and challenged myself to learn Sign Language. Davis was my first Sign Language Teacher, even though later l took up sign language classes to become fluent. Now I communicate well with Davis. He felt so happy that I was interested and willing to learn his language.

How do you communicate with your child?
We use sign language although at times we do write, but not frequently. I cannot boost at being a fluent signer, but we get on very well and are able to understand each other.

What advice would you give to parents of deaf children who have just learnt that thier child is deaf?
Most importantly, parents need to understand and accept that this is their child. The DEAF CHILD IS YOUR CHILD. There should be a feeling of acceptance to enable parents love, appreciate and acknowledge thier deaf child. The child’s deafness will not change – but the parents’ attitude towards their child needs to be positive because parents are the first people in their child’s world to play the most fundamental role that child’s life – this lays the foundation of your child’s future. Parent are responsible for cementing a strong beginning for thier child and should never neglect the child or abandon parental responsibilities. Your child’s needs, desires and feelings should take priority – just like your other hearing children.

There is no time for feeling confused or self-pity. Yes, initially a parent may feel traumatised, but you have to find ways of overcoming negative thoughts and embrace your child. Regret, sadness, blame and any other negative feelings cannot help – they only take you backwards. Of recent, issues on disabilities in Uganda are being openly discussed, with many Disabled Persons Organisations being formed, for example Deaf Link Uganda, of which I am a member. Many disabled people have become successful role models and for parents of disabled children, this is a source of encouragement.

If you have a disabled child, you must not isolate this child or yourself. Come out in the open, approach another parent in a similar situation and share your experiences. They can advice and counsel you; join parents’ groups or organisations to seek support. This is important because it helps one become strong and can help any parent dealing with negative feeling overcome them to build positive relationships with his or her child. “Go out and meet people who can help. Instead of feeling traumatised, share your experiences with others!”

What are your future hopes for your child?
OH – The sky is the limit! I have so much hope for Davis and I’m extremely proud of him! He can do anything in this world. His determination is inspirational. Evident from his educational performance at Wakiso Secondary School for the Deaf (where he’s been promoted to Senior 2), his school reports are very encouraging. Davis has a great future ahead because there is nothing he cannot do!

He’s an excellent person in everything he does and I’ve no doubt that he’ll achieve success in his life. Also he’ll be able to have a family of his own in the future. I compliment him for his kind nature and gentle disposition. Davis cares for my deafblind son, with so much love! He looks after him so well and always ensures that he’s comfortable.

How has DLU assisted you child and family?
Haa, Essanyu! Happiness! DLU is a miracle to us! I feel so proud of this organisation and the great opportunities it’s giving to my son and other deaf children. At first I sponsored Davis’ primary education but then couldn’t continue due to increasing financial constraints, also I’d failed to find a sponsor for Davis. It was God’s Grace that DLU came along! I feel so honoured, happy and relieved that DLU accepted to support my son to continue his education. I deeply appreciate this organisation!

Could you advice how DLU can better support the deaf in 2013
ONLY Prayers for DLU! That the Organisation will Grow and continue in its STRENGTH!
Best wishes to Deaf Link Uganda in 2013!

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