This is how 15-year-old Patrick Otema was described by documentary-maker Kiki King.
“Trapped in his own mind.”
Born profoundly deaf, Patrick never had a single conversation in his life due to the lack of schools dedicated for deaf-mutes in a remote village called Agago in Uganda.
He never learned sign language. Although he can communicate through very basic gestures with his father, the distressed boy seemed disconnected to the world.
“We’ve been sitting here talking about Patrick in front of him, and while he’s been watching us, he doesn’t understand what we’re saying. It feels almost rude but this is what Patrick’s life is like all the time.”
But Patrick’s life is about to change.
Raymond Okkelo, a sign language teacher, came to Patrick’s town with a mission. Using sign language, he told King:
“In the past, I was also like him. I couldn’t use sign language, the only thing I could was hide in fear.”
After suffering from malaria when he was a child, Raymond became deaf. He underwent intensive training in sign language in the country’s capital six months ago. For the first time, Raymond did something unbelievable for deaf children and adults in their town: teach the first sign language course in their area.
Watch the heart touching video:
Towards the end of the video, Patrick along with other deaf students were visibly transformed by the experience.
“Patrick’s transformation is amazing. It’s almost impossible to believe he’s the same boy we met yesterday,” commented King.
The 4-minute video is part of the documentary 15 and Learning to Speak. The documentary features the inspirational work and efforts of sign language teachers in Uganda with a mission to change the lives of deaf adults and children.
The viral video has over 1 million views on Youtube and has been shared in various social media sites.
Deafness in Uganda
In the country, many people become deaf as a result of diseases like malaria, mumps,measles, meningitis, or being born to moms who had rubella during gestation.
As dismaying as it may sound, these diseases are preventable through routine vaccinations.
What’s even more disappointing is that most deaf people in sub-Saharan Africa remain sign language illiterate due to the lack of education system in their area. This is something that their government should focus on.
We have seen in the video how one conversation can transform a person’s life. Deaf people have the right to communicate and it is our duty to make their “voices” heard.
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