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help mothers learn to communicate with their deaf children

ID:
5451

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Our goal
To increase the communication between young deaf children and their mothers in Zimbabwe.
The Challenge

“Help, I can’t talk to my child!” Deaf children in Zimbabwe and their mothers attend activities to learn to communicate with each other.

Please help Nzeve to increase mother’s interaction with their deaf child and build relationships.

Helen Keller is quoted as saying “Blindness separates people from things. Deafness separates people from people.”

Nzeve Deaf centre was started in 2000 in Zimbabwe to help families accept and communicate with their young deaf children. It provides a unique service in Zimbabwe. 99% deaf children in Zimbabwe have hearing parents who are unaware of the signs and consequences of deafness. Cultural beliefs among urban and rural communities greatly influence perceptions of disability in Zimbabwe. Disability is associated with curses and bad omens; the birth of a child with a disability often triggers family conflict and marital break ups. Mothers are mostly blamed for the “misfortune” and are at risk of becoming outcasts in their communities. The child is at risk of losing approval and acceptance from the parent as they are regarded as the cause of this “misfortune”.

A young couple came to Nzeve with their 3 year old son. Tom wasn’t talking and they were worried. He was profoundly deaf and on hearing this, his mother started to cry. Her husband and his mother were blaming her for the child’s problems.  She was trying to keep the child away from them as they wanted to take him for the fourth time to have the frenulum under the tongue cut in order to “free it”.  People commonly believe this will help children to speak. Tom’s parents both became involved in the programme at Nzeve and went on to be good communicators with their son.  His mother also helps many other deaf children and youth who have problems communicating with their mothers, and she helps mothers at Nzeve to accept their children and learn sign language.

Other families miss out if they do not get help when their children are little. Grace came to Nzeve Deaf Centre when she was 12 years old.  She is profoundly deaf but had never been to school.  Grace and her family live in a remote mountainous area.  Grace lived with her mother and 5 siblings.  Her father had died 5 years earlier, but no one had been able to explain to her what had happened. The family had almost no communication beyond the basics of hunger and toilet needs.  It is hardly surprising that Grace was withdrawn and very shy. Grace found a school place and started to learn sign language.  She kept going for a few years but since her family did not know sign language the situation at home did not improve very much. After 3 years Grace’s mother told the teacher she did not want her to go back to school. She now stays at home where she cleans and cooks. Her mother cannot communicate much with her but Grace happily helps in the home and garden.

Grace is not able to learn about health issues, HIV or social norms.   She lives an isolated life and is working for the family, doing the daily chores and growing vegetables.  Many girls like Grace have been abused.  Older men see deaf girls as easy partners- they don’t think they will get into trouble since they don’t expect the girl to be able to report any abuse. 

Deafness is a serious disability in Zimbabwe affecting children’s communication and education.  An estimated 135,000 (2.5%) school children in Zimbabwe have a significant hearing loss. Even a slight hearing loss can affect the child’s progress in school.  Parents frequently delay  seeking appropriate help for their child as they visit prophets, traditional healers and grand parents’ for advice and treatment before seeking help from the formal health sector or NGOs  like Nzeve. Deaf children are a marginalized group that is frequently excluded even from programs aiming at children with disabilities, because of the barriers created by language difficulties.

Hearing loss is an important global health issue. 250 million people in the world are affected by this most frequent sensory challenge. 32 million are children. If their condition is not identified and given appropriate treatment early in life, these children face delays in development of speech, language, and cognitive skills, with knock-on effects such as learning difficulties in school; social isolation and stigmatisation.                                                                    

“How was school today?”

You know how the conversation with your children goes! They don’t tell you much, but imagine if they couldn’t tell you anything about their day.  They couldn’t tell you if they had a good day, or they had been bullied or even abused.

At a recent Parent’s meeting, when asked how Nzeve could best help them, they replied as one – “Teach us sign language.” These were all parents of girls who were around 19 years old, but their parents were still unable to communicate with them in sign language.  It is not really surprising that the girls had very little knowledge about HIV, family planning or healthy living.  With no easily accessible means of communication it is difficult to learn such concepts.

Most mothers of deaf children in Zimbabwe cannot communicate more than a few signs with their children. Children whose families do not communicate with them frequently turn to groups of deaf friends for their support and companionship. This often has a positive effect on their language and social development but tends to destroy family relationships.  We want to invite mothers to spend time at school with their preschool deaf children, but deaf children are scattered throughout the District - some mothers have to travel a long way to meet with other mothers and to meet deaf adults.

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TAKE YOUR MUM TO SCHOOL!

Some mothers bring their child to Nzeve from a long distance. They will be invited to stay in our huts at the centre with their child each week and attend preschool with their child. Being involved with their deaf child can change their lives and their relationships.

We have estimated that it costs $50 per month to transport, feed, accommodate and teach a deaf child and her mother at Nzeve. This includes spending $18 per month on staff salaries in the early childhood intervention. Sometimes siblings come too and they are also included in the activities- this further improves opportunities for communication and play at home.

We want to raise $4500 so that 30 preschool children and their mothers can be involved in the programme for the next school term (3 months).  Those parents who can contribute an additional $8 per month towards the food and salaries at the centre and they all help with general work around the centre.

Organisation

Nzeve is a unique organisation in Zimbabwe, where young children and their parents interact each day with deaf children and youth.  There are also deaf and hearing teachers who provide models for sign language. Mothers who have been through the preschool programme with their children often keep coming after their child has graduated, and help the new mothers. Some mothers have even become ambassadors for the deaf- visiting rural communities and schools to spread deaf awareness and the message of early intervention.

In addition to the preschool and family interventions which reach at least 30 preschool deaf children at the centre each year, Nzeve runs several other programmes:

  • collaboration with Ministry of Education to reach deaf school children and their teachers
  • vocational training programmes with deaf youth
  • health education and personal development for adolescent deaf girls and young women
  • sign language training for professionals
  • disability inclusion awareness to other organisations
  • discussion with rural community leaders on traditional practises impacting children with disabilities
  • economic strengthening for families of deaf children

Nzeve is in the East of Zimbabwe but links with several other organisations working with the deaf in Zimbabwe in order to learn from best practise and share skills we have developed.  Our dedicated programme staff of 9 work tirelessly to bring relevant, innovative programmes to the deaf community. They are assisted by the administration and volunteer teams. Nzeve is a non- government organisation, raising all funds from grants and individual donations.

Nzeve’s partner, Operation Orphan is a registered charity in USA.  In line with the regulations for Caring Crowd, Operation Orphan will receive donations and pass on the total amount to Nzeve.

Open up the world of a family with a deaf child, by supporting Nzeve’s early intervention programme.

You can enable a relationship between a mother and a deaf child to grow by supporting this project, either by pledging support yourself or by advertising the project to others!

See our website: www. nzeve.wordpress.com

See how far we've come

Our milestones
  • Samir

  • Helen

  • Jenny and Irv

  • David

  • Lauren

  • Tim

  • Amanda

  • Anne

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