I braced myself as our jeep tilted and tottered on the deep red soil. As we turned the corner, small, smiling brown faces with bright white teeth began to appear from every angle. We had arrived at Kambui School for the Deaf, located in Kiambu County in central Kenya, and the excitement on the kids’ faces was infectious.
Yes! I remember now. Forget the tiredness of jet lag, THIS is why I love my job.
There is something so amazing about these special kids. They are fearless. They are bold. Their personalities aren’t buried under a timid shell. Which, if you think about it, is pretty amazing, considering what they’re up against.
You see, in Kenya, being deaf and hard of hearing is a huge obstacle to overcome. People think you’re worthless. Cursed. That somehow you deserved this fate, so you are cast out from society. There are not many programs that will help you, educate you, support your family, teach you to become a productive member of society. For many families of the deaf or hard of hearing, there are no options but poverty.
At the Kambui School for the Deaf, the kids are loved. They are fed well, have a safe place to live, and get a stellar education by both hearing and deaf teachers. They play like normal kids. They learn everything they need to know to become productive members of their society, and they are able to dream about their future.
I think the most incredible thing I’ve witnessed at the Kambui School for the Deaf is how the children like to express their love for God. Their heartfelt prayers in sign language make me long to understand what they’re saying – you can tell they approach Jesus with confidence. Josiah and I were also so impressed with a drama they did set to drumming. Yes, the deaf kids love to drum and dance to a beat! I’m going to upload a clip once I’m back in the states – really hard to post videos from Kenya with the internet the way it is.
We were only at the school for a short while, but it was hard to leave the kids. I can only imagine how much different their lives might be if they weren’t able to attend a school like this:
My mother is ashamed of me. She doesn’t understand how I act and she can’t communicate with me. My father disowned me at an early age and left my mother to struggle to raise me. I don’t go to school – I am kept inside our house and am not allowed to play outside with the other kids. I feel alone here, like no one will ever care for me.
Contrast that with what a student at the school might now be able to say:
I love my life. I am surrounded by other kids like me. We play, we learn, we dance and drum together. My teacher is deaf and really knows how to help us learn. I am learning skills like hair braiding and sewing so I can get work to support myself someday. I never have to wonder where my next meal is coming from. I know that God loves me just the way I am!
Which reality would you want your own child to face? I think it’s safe to say that no one wants any child to experience the first scenario. What a joy it is to see these children thriving, uninhibited by their culture that tries to pretend they don’t exist.
The Kambui School for the Deaf just scratches the surface of all Christian Mission Aid is doing for the deaf community in Kenya. Besides advocating for the deaf and supporting their community, CMA is currently training up a group of deaf pastors and holds workshops for families with deaf members to help them know how to care for the deaf and thrive together in loving community.
If you’d like to know more about CMA’s Deaf Ministry or to donate, go here: http://www.cmaid.org/our-work/christian-outreach/deaf-ministry/