In December 2016 we were contacted by a lady called Mari who is the chair of a charity called URAFIKI; they have a UK registered charity (10785805) and a Kenyan registered NGO of the same name. They have been working successfully in the community of the Yala district of Kenya, near Kisimu, for the past 15 years. They have a community campus there which consists of a library, community café, office building, a community centre and associated storage and toilet facilities. They also support over 500 children to access education through a sponsorship scheme, they support older people and run employment projects for young adults.
Working in partnership with URAFIKI we have successfully fundraised to build a small classroom and employ two teachers, one Deaf and one hearing.
The project in Kenya has been a huge success. When I visited in July, just 6 months after opening and accepting pupils, the number of children had grown to 13 with a growing waiting list. The team in Yala have built an additional, smaller, classroom so that if some of the children are advancing at a quicker rate they can be accommodated. The classrooms are bright and airy and the standards of Deaf friendly teaching are very high. The children have a dedicated play area within the community centre which is safe and secure for them. The whole team in Yala work very closely with the children and there is a lovely family atmosphere, helping the children to become settled much more quickly. Parents have signing lessons on a Friday afternoon when they collect their children from school and this is really helping with communication within the families and spreading Deaf Awareness in the local communities.
The challenge even before the school opened was that the parents were not happy for the children to travel to the school daily by motorbike or bicycle as they feared for the children’s safety and potential sexual abuse by the riders. This caused a lot of soul searching for the URAFIKI team. There were a number of meetings and discussions with the parents to consider options. In the end and after discussion with URAFIKI UK and myself it was decided that the children’s safety must be paramount. They board in a small house at the back of URAFIKI and the mother of one of the deaf secondary students gets them ready for bed and sleeps with them each night. The dormitory has limited capacity and this in itself brings problems as more parents request that their child joins the school. This is something that we will be looking at over the coming months.