Imagine being surrounded by family, but unable to communicate your needs. Or being in a school, and having little idea of what was being taught.
Now more than ever as we navigate social isolation we understand how important it is to be able to communicate with those around you. In times of crisis, communication is what keeps us connected and informed, and what makes us feel safe.
For more than 40 hearing-impaired children in the Nepali city of Nepalgunj, living without the ability to properly communicate with their family, teachers, community and peers was their reality.
They dealt daily with the feelings and challenges of being isolated from those around them, of not being able to communicate how they were feeling and what they needed.
All that changed in December 2019 when Beyond the Orphanage partnered with RHERI, a not-for-profit NGO where the 40+ children reside. With the generous support of corporate donor Community Underwriting and our community, BTO funded two sign teachers to help the children communicate, and transform their education.
And the results have been phenomenal.
Building confidence and creating impact through sign language
RHERI Sign teachers have already had a great impact on the emotional and educational development of children with hearing impairments.
In the few short months since the sign teachers started the children have shown remarkable progress in their schooling and their emotional wellbeing.
Narayan Singh is one of the sign teachers who began working with the children at RHERI. Having grown up at the RHERI hostel while her mother worked there, Narayan has deep compassion for the children she works with, and speaking to her it’s easy to understand why these passionate teachers have had such an impact.
When asked about what life was like for a hearing-impaired child in Nepal, Narayan explained that “according to [the children] they feel life is full of struggle and there are less number of people who listen to them and share their feelings due to lack of sign language.”
“The children should have access to sign language teachers so that they can share their views, opinions and feelings with others. Since the deaf cannot speak and hear, sign language is a must.”
Prior to the teachers starting, the children would travel to a nearby school and sit at the front of the class, with little to no understanding of what was going on. Now, with the aid of the sign teachers, they are beginning to understand what the educators are talking about.
Now, with the help of Narayan, the children have access to education and learning like they never have before. Even more importantly, they have access to someone who can understand and listen. For the first time, they feel they are truly heard and seen.
The impact of being able to connect with their educators and sign teachers is immense.
“As we know, the teacher is the person who shapes the life of the children…I have seen the contribution of the sign teacher to the deaf students. Every day, the sign teacher made the students feel that they can be the backbone of the country.” Narayan passionately reminds us.
BTO Staff witnessed their impact first hand when they visited RHERI in February 2020
The gift of communication in crisis
Like the rest of the world, Nepal has been in lockdown during COVID-19. For the children at RHERI, this has been a particularly stressful time with so much change and disruptions to their daily lives.
Luckily, with the help of the sign teachers, the RHERI children have been given the gift of communication to help them feel informed, connected and safe in what has been a scary and confusing time.
“During this disaster, [we] have been providing the knowledge of coronavirus. [We] have told the children about the symptoms and precautions of coronavirus. Students are informed not to have close contact with other people”. Explains Narayan.
Funding for the sign language teachers is part of a longer-term partner program in which Beyond the Orphanage will support the organisation to move towards a more community-based program, ensuring the children have the right to participate more fully in family life.
Without the generous support of our donors, we would not be able to have such a meaningful and positive impact on the health and wellbeing of these children.
While most of us are adapting to the feeling and emotional challenges of social isolation, thanks to the gift of communication our community has provided, these beautiful children are more connected and included than ever before.
Beyond the Orphanage are working with our partners like RHERI to keep the children in our care as safe as possible during COVID-19. However, the current situation has created a child safety emergency unlike anything we have ever seen. If you would like to help us support our partners to keep these children safe, you can donate to our COVID-19 Child Safety Emergency Appeal here.
Like most of the world, Nepal is currently in a National Lockdown which, at the time of publishing on 22 April has been confirmed by the government to continue for another two weeks. However, it is widely anticipated the lockdown will be extended for another month. There have now been 31 confirmed cases in Nepal, however,...