Cookies, Cokes, hugs – and the joy of bringing language to a Deaf child
Ladysmith Parent Advisor, Sophia* has a full time job as a teacher. On weekends and school holidays, she gives up her time to visit the family of a Deaf child in Bergville (a remote rural area of the Drakensberg).
The journey involves catching a taxi from her home into town, then another for the hour's drive to Bergville, after which she must walk for another 20 minutes to get to the family's humble little hut.
The return trip takes about 4 hours in total and costs every cent of the small stipend she receives as a Parent Advisor.
Ask her why she goes to all this effort and expense and she says:
'I am always warmly welcomed with fresh cookies baked specially for me. Seeing the smile on gogo's face, and the sense of relief that I am here to help, makes the trip worthwhile.'
Sophia helped the family enrol the child at a School for the Deaf next year and assists them in communicating with their beautiful little girl.
More long journeys
Another PA, Oscar* recently travelled 400km in his little Fiat Uno to reach two families in another deep rural area of Umzimkulu.
The father of the first child had made arrangements for Oscar to visit on his day off work. 'He was so happy with the help he received that he went to the shop and bought me a Coke. A small gesture, but it meant a lot as it showed how grateful he was.'
The other child is a 7 year old little girl who attends a mainstream rural school. She is hard of hearing and has hearing aids fitted. Oscar was pleased to find that she was wearing her hearing aids and happily playing with the other children.
The teacher says she walks a long way to school, but is eager to learn. She sits at the front of class and is keeping up with her school work. The school has been very caring; they take the child to her audio appointments – a journey of 300kms. They are very happy to have Hi Hopes support in learning about the care of hearing aids and early auditory learning.
Joy of empowering families
'The joy of empowering a family with information so that they can make an independent decision on the mode of communication. And then seeing that family then take ownership of their decision and implement strategies to teach their child language,' was how another PA described the satisfaction that comes with the job.
Others are touched by the gratitude they experience. 'Walking to the car with my family's mom after a seemingly unsuccessful visit, she said, ''I just want to thank you so much for everything, it is a big help to us.'''
'The parents always look to me for support. When seeking advice, they always consult with me and hold me in high esteem.'
'The parents of the child I visit are really appreciative and wanted to give me money on one occasion - yet they are a poor rural family. I refused the money asking them rather to buy air time to keep in contact about the child's development.'
'Seeing my children develop and going to school and the parents relief.'
'Getting the whole family excited and interested in using Sign Language.'
*Names changed to protect identy.