In August 2005, thanks to my dear friends Egon and Moniek, I received a letter requesting me to go to South Africa and work as volunteer in translation and interpretation during the third Mental Health and Deafness World Congress. Since then my eyes were open. I came to understand there is a group of people who are left out when they are the persons who can talk in an appropriate language (Sign Language), can express their feelings if trained and above all can lead a normal and balanced life. This was for me an astonishing discovery.
The World of the Deaf is still ignored by a various number of people, especially in Africa, being specific in Central Africa.
The Human right is far away from being a benefit for people who use hands to express their thoughts and feelings. The big danger in humanity is when someone doesn’t recognise his (her) identity and his (her) capability to realise things. This results in drugs, suicides and a very miserable life full of lamentations and complains. This is normal for all human being whether he is hearing, deaf, blind, in a wheel chair, … We are all human being subjected to the same emotions and way of living.
The history of the Great Lake Countries is unfortunately characterized with war, violence and non respect of Human Right, especially for disabled people like Deaf.
Central Africa has encountered many wars through this decade that have left many aftermaths in both hearing and Deaf people. But in countries where Sign Language is not developed or recognised as language for this minority of people with their own culture, it is obvious to see that Deaf people have been marginalised and therefore have been the most paying the big tribute of the wars and other conflicts. The genocide in Rwanda, the war in Burundi and the war in Congo Brazzaville, war in Republic of Central Africa and the war in the Democratic Republic of Congo that has led to more then 6 millions of people losing their lives didn’t spare out Deaf people. They have been most victims due to lack of information of what was going on and the stampede during the war. None is ready to help because everyone wants to save his life. If we consider a case of a Deaf person whose diagrams shows his hearing level on 120 decibels with a frequency of 8000, such a person wouldn’t hear a sound of a bullet and even though he hears a little noise, he wouldn’t recognise the direction in which it is coming from. He will be running like a ship following others, he cannot ask question to anybody and no one can give him proper information because the important tool and means of communication for a Deaf, that is Sign Language is not recognised. Soldiers or fighters for lack of information then will assume them pretending to be people who cannot talk to spy on behalf of the enemy part. These people will be sadly beaten and some are even killed. Where are the right and justice for the Deaf?
Burundi is a small country located in Central Africa with an area of 27,816 sq km(10,740 sq miles) that has been ravaged with ethnical and civil war for more then 15 years. It shares borders with DRC, Rwanda and Tanzania. This country has an innumerable number of Deaf people. The thousands of Deaf are spread out in all the country at mercy of war, poverty and lack of education and information. The whole country counts 2 schools for the Deaf, respectively in Bujumbura (Capital City) and Gitega (Economical City). The Burundi National Association for the Deaf tries to save the day of the Deaf people but faces so many challenges, among of them lack of financial means, infrastructure and qualified staff. The government is not yet prioritizing Deaf people development in its plan.
Most of the parents of deaf children think they have been cursed by having a non hearing child, they therefore don’t think of the future of him. As it has been a routine, knowing that Deaf children will become nothing then beggars in the street confronting all the dirty life found in the streets. Of course this is due to lack of information and lack of a model person to show how other Deaf children in developing countries are going to school, following a good education program and become important people, politician, even members of parliament (the case in South Africa)
The good news is that a normal life can be restored if a Deaf person gets the chance to reach to the information and be aware of what potential is lying inside him that needs a proper information and training to stir it up and to put in action.
I felt concerned and guilty not to use my resource, my strength, my knowledge to help out, but then I thought my first step as volunteer in translation in French-English during the 3rd World Congress in Mental Healh and Deafness in South Africa is a significant one. But I need to do more, I need to challenge myself. Hence I think I have to learn more about deaf people, to really understand who they are, what they like, and in which way to behave with them. I need to talk openly, to tell and to pursue people about Deaf people, to use all the necessary means to help them fight for their right. This is not easy but I believe, being young I can make it.
To create DeafYBU, with the missions and visions as stipulated in this website