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Talking Hands supports several projects which create opportunities for and promote integration of deaf and hard of hearing people in Uganda. The projects are implemented and coordinated by local partner organisation New Hope for the Deaf.
One of Talking Hands’ main projects is to provide access to education for underprivileged deaf and hard of hearing people in Uganda. These children and youth would otherwise not have the opportunity to attend school since there is no public deaf school in their neighbourhood and their families do not have the financial means to pay tuition fees at a private deaf school. Currently, Talking Hands pays school fees for 32 deaf and hard of hearing students, enabling them to receive primary, secondary and vocational education. Since some of the students only had the opportunity to attend school later in life, the age of the students varies from 6 – 18 years.
Uganda is known for its beautiful crafts, which are creative pieces of work handmade from natural or recycled materials or typical African fabrics. Talking Hands supports two deaf women in Uganda who make crafts and sells these crafts at markets and through the web shop. The deaf women are paid fairly for their work, and the remaining proceeds benefit the foundation’s other projects.
“The students whom Talking Hands financially supports have board and lodging at the school and go home during the holidays. Besides the lessons and homework, there is also enough time to do fun things with friends. The pupils really enjoy learning and using sign language. Most pupils like maths the most. But gym, social studies, religion and English are also mentioned as favourite subjects at school.”
In Uganda, there is much ignorance about deafness and the capabilities of deaf people are often underestimated. The realisation that deaf children can learn to read, write and do math through special education increases the appreciation of deaf people. But in order to counteract discrimination and incomprehention, it is essential that families of deaf and hard of hearing children learn sign language themselves, so that they can communicate well with each other. During the sign language courses, the causes of deafness, discrimination, what it is like to be deaf and deaf culture are also discussed.
Many deaf and hard of hearing children who go to primary school are older, because they did not have the opportunity to go to school until later. In primary school, children learn many of the basic requirements for a successful life later on, but they learn few practical skills for earning money. Therefore, Talking Hands finds it very important that the older deaf and hard of hearing students also learn various practical skills outside of school, such as making soap, slippers and shoes, candles or baked goods.
“After finishing primary school, several pupils would like to go to secondary school and some even to university. Others would prefer to do vocational training. Most boys want to become mechanics or carpenters, while girls are more interested in professions such as tailoring and hairdressing. One pupil wants to study catering and become a chef. Pupils are also interested in setting up their own businesses and hope to be able to support their families in this way. Most of them would like to work together with hearing people.
For the new school buildings, Talking Hands supported partner organisation New Hope for the Deaf to purchase a piece of land on which the buildings for the New Hope School for the Deaf can be built. Land was purchased in early 2021. This land has a land title, with which the ownership of the land is undisputed, which will prevent problems in the future. The land is a good place to build new school buildings, because it is easily accessible through the main road. Food for the pupils can also be grown on it to make the school more financially independent.
A detailed plan is being made for the new school buildings. New Hope for the Deaf has the building plans drawn up with the help of various stakeholders and also has an estimate made of the costs. Based on the cost estimate, Talking Hands will raise funds. The school buildings can be built and financed in several phases. The construction of the school buildings will be carried out entirely by local parties under the supervision of New Hope for the Deaf. Talking Hands will provide support where requested and will supervise financially.