Ronan Collins will be joined by the amazing Gina Dale Haze and the Champions at the Celtis Ross Hotel in Rosscarbery on Saturday, February 9. The show is in aid of the Ethiopia Deaf Project (EDP), a voluntary organisation dedicated to assisting rural deaf children who have been excluded from education to attend the Ambo Lazarist Deaf School. The event is being organised by Miriam O’Regan, a member of the Ethiopian Deaf Project, who has two adopted children from Ethiopia, one of whom is deaf. Miriam shares a story from the school to show just what a difference your support can make!
Last week, Tariku, the local tailor in Ambo town, arrived at the Ambo Lazarist Deaf School carrying a huge bundle of brown paper parcels. Each parcel contained a new uniform for each of the 22 new students who had registered at the deaf school in September.
The level of excitement that broke out when Tariku arrived was nearly uncontainable. However, an orderly queue was formed at the door to the office with the youngest students being the first to get their hands on the prized parcel at which point they ran off to a private room to try on their new uniform.
As each student emerged from the room you could see them glowing with happiness and pride. Despite the fact that all the uniforms were the same, the yard was like a fashion show, as they admired each other’s new look.
Since there is no mirror in the school, a photo was taken of each student and the laughter and joy as they got a glimpse of themselves in the new uniforms was infectious.
However, one of the older girls just stood there quietly and stared at her photo with tears in her eyes. She was 17-years-old and had never been to school before. She still had no real ability to sign and certainly no ability to explain the emotions that seeing her photo had brought on. However her reaction reminded me of a story that a mother of one of other deaf girls had told me.
She said that every morning her deaf daughter would sit in the corner of their house and watch her brothers and sisters get ready for school. She’d watch as they put on their uniforms, gather up their copy books and pens and head out the door and join a stream of local children all setting out on the 3km hike to school.
She said it broke her heart to see her daughter standing in the doorway with tears in her eyes, wondering why she was being kept at home and not able to join all the other children. She said that she had approached the school to request that they give her daughter a place but was told that the teachers were not qualified to teach a deaf child. So she was kept at home where she helped with the smaller children and did some housework.
Now and again she said, her deaf daughter would try on her sister’s uniform or pick up a pencil and copy book and do her best to copy the letters and numbers. The mother knew her little girl was bright as a button and it really saddened her that she could not go to school.
This little girl finally got an opportunity to attend school when her mother heard about the Ambo Lazarist Deaf School (ALDS) which the Ethiopia Deaf Project (EDP) had helped to build and which opened in 2012. She was afraid her daughter, who was now 14, would be too old, and that she herself was too poor to be able to afford the school fees.
When I met this mother in her local town, I was able to reassure her that her daughter would be welcome with open arms at the Deaf School and that a group in Ireland (EDP) would do their best to find a sponsor for her daughter. This girl is now one of our brightest students and each day she lights up the school with her wonderful smile.
Last week, as I watched the tears welling up in the eyes of our new student, I knew that she had also been excluded from attending school. Perhaps for the first time in her life, as she saw the image of herself dressed in her uniform, she had a real sense of ‘belonging’, a sense of ‘identity’ of ‘equality’ of ‘inclusion’ and of ‘hope’. While I can’t be certain of this, I do know that when she had stared long and hard at herself, she turned to me and smiled and with the little sign language she has managed to learn, she said “Thank You, I Happy”.
We are working to try and secure sponsors for each of the new students who have registered at the school this year 2018. It costs €25 a month to sponsor a child and it’s no exaggeration to say that such a donation will transform the life of a deaf child. For more information please check out our facebook page: ‘Ethiopia Deaf Project’ or if you would like to sponsor a child please visit our website: www.edp-ambo.com.