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.
Between July and September 2016 the team at URAFIKI in Kenya hosted UK volunteers as part of Deaf International Citizenship Service, a collaboration between VSO UK, VSO Kenya and Deafway; this was the reason for her phone call. Whilst the placement was a great success it highlighted the significant unmet needs of the Deaf community in the area. When the volunteers returned to the UK the team at URAFIKI found that the success of the Deaf ICS had left them with a greater problem in that Deaf people and their families were now coming to the community centre, often in tears, asking for their help. We agreed that this wasn’t something we would wish to see happening and suggested we work together to overcome the problem. The team in Yala have done some research and have discovered more than 20 deaf people just in their immediate area, however they believe this number underestimates the actual number of Deaf people in the area as the stigma around disability in Kenya means that many families keep disabled family members hidden from view. In fact they found it quite a challenge to get people to share details of any disabled family member with them.
Working in partnership with URAFIKI we have successfully fundraised to build a small classroom and employ two teachers, one Deaf and one hearing. The class is now open and they have nine new students who without this project would have no language and no education.