A young deaf man from Magherafelt has travelled 4,000 miles to volunteer on a project that aims to empower deaf Kenyan children and young people in Nandi County and enable them to achieve more in education and employment.
19-year-old Diarmuid Laverty is one of a team of deaf 18-25 year olds participating in the unique project, arranged and managed by the international development organisation VSO and deaf charity Deafway, as part of the UK Government funded International Citizen Service (ICS) programme.
After travelling to Kenya at the end of June, Diarmuid and his eight team mates, working alongside young deaf Kenyan volunteers and a number of local organisations, will run awareness raising campaigns, create educational materials on deaf issues and hold public events to better integrate the deaf and hearing communities.
Their activities have been designed to increase social, education and economic opportunities for young deaf Kenyans, who face further marginalisation within a region already bearing incredibly high levels of extreme poverty.
Deaf people in Kenya can face discrimination in social and economic life as a result of misconceptions about what it is to be deaf. The Deafway ICS project was developed as a result of research that found Nandi County had the lowest number of community support systems for deaf children and youth of any area in Kenya.
“This is a real once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Diarmuid said. “I’ll be seeing what life is like for young, deaf people in Kenya and helping to bring about real improvements in their lives by working to remove the barriers between them and their wider community.
“I’m really excited about the whole trip. I can’t wait to meet the people we’ll be living and working with, or see what my living environment will be like. We’ll be living with the Kenyan volunteers in host homes, which will give us a real handle on the challenges young deaf Kenyans face and better understand and gain the trust of the community we’re working in.”