Yes! I know this sounds like a dumb question, but at least for me, I didn’t even think about how deaf children or individuals were living and learning in Rwanda. As many of you know, I studied ASL in college at Gallaudet University in DC and briefly in high school and it has always held a special place in my heart. I’m always excited when I see someone signing and I fell in love with the open and expressive culture from the first moment I learned to sign. Recently I learned more about the deaf culture here and was able to visit one of the schools for deaf students!
Fair Children Rwanda is an organization that equips deaf students with the knowledge and skills they need to become an active member of their community, contributing and learning alongside their hearing neighbours and friends. They learn to lip read English, French, and Kinyarwanda! Lip reading is hard, but learning to lip read three different languages is absolutely amazing. These students also learn vocational skills such as craftsmanship, sewing, and art. They are so smart and talented! It really brings home the fact that all students have the capacity for learning if they are given the proper tools and support. That is one of the reasons I am drawn to special education (although in the States being deaf is not considered a disability), to advocate for students and show them that they have what it takes. Because they do!
Fair Children Rwanda teaches deaf students from 1-4th grade before putting them in a school in their community so they can interact and engage with their peers. Yay for inclusion! These students learn as much as they can and work very hard to succeed; they are usually some of the top performing students in their class. Teachers at these public schools are given support for teaching students who are deaf so that they can give these students the best education possible. It is really exciting to see how Rwanda is working to take care and support all of its citizens. If you’d like to support Fair Children Rwanda feel free to go here and donate or, if you’d like to sponsor a deaf child (they cannot attend school without support, which is about $75 a month) message me and we can set that us as well!
My hope is that if I come back to Rwanda to teach, I can volunteer on weekends at this school to support these students and work on my own signing as well! It is amazing the ways in which my skills and loves are all coming together here in Rwanda. Teaching, ASL, Special Education, Community, these things are all alive and growing here and I am so excited that I get to be a part of it! Rwanda is truly an amazing country and I am constantly surprised by how far it has come in the 20 years after the genocide and how hard the country as a whole is working towards a better future.
What do you know about deaf culture? I encourage you to click on some of the links I’ve added to this post and learn something new! Have a great rest of your week!