What is the problem?
In spite of having over 800 Deaf schools, several children from low Socio-Economic Zones (SEZs) fall through the cracks as they drop out of local mainstream schools which are not equipped to meet the needs of children with special needs. Amrin Shaikh was one such child who did not learn any language until the age of 14. She had dropped out of school in kindergarten as the teachers at the school didn’t know how to teach her. Amrin’s widowed mother and her siblings did not have the resources that they needed to support her.
What is the solution?
Since 95% of Deaf children are born to hearing parents, early education programs need to be set up for parents so that they are provided with the resources they need to make informed decisions regarding the educational options for their children. Deaf mentors will be able to teach parents how to communicate with their Deaf children using Indian Sign Language (ISL). These Deaf professionals will also serve as role models for the Deaf children born to hearing parents. When Deaf mentors and Deaf mentees have the opportunity to travel, they benefit from expanding their worldview and shaping the next generation of leaders.
How did we contribute?
Young Achievers collaborated with Kranti, an organization in Mumbai that empowers socially marginalized girls, to set up a Deaf mentor program for Amrin in 2015. Sana Ansari, a local Deaf teacher, was provided ongoing training to be able to assist Amrin, who was just learning to communicate using ISL and English. Sana enrolled Amrin in a local school for the Deaf and taught her how to commute using Mumbai’s local trains. At the end of a year-long after-school mentoring program, Amrin and Sana were given the opportunity to attend Aspen Camp for the Deaf in Colorado, U.S.A. Thanks to the generous support of International Deaf Partnerships (IDP), an organization that provides educational opportunities for Deaf people from developing countries, Amrin and Sana were also able to explore Washington D.C. and New York City on the way to their camp. During their stay in these cities, they visited Gallaudet University, the world’s only liberal arts university for Deaf and Hard of Hearing individuals, several museums, historical monuments and met Deaf professionals from all walks of life.
The collaboration with IDP led to Amrin finding a host family in Colorado who enrolled her at Colorado School for the Deaf and Blind. Today, she is not only a confident young adult who is able to communicate fluently in American Sign Language (ASL), ISL and English, the 16 year old is also a proud member of the Aspen Camp team with a Food Handler’s Permit. Amrin has performed at cultural events hosted by Metro South Asian Deaf Association in Washington D.C. Her motivation to become a peer-mentor to her friends from her previous school in Mumbai, using video chat, is a clear indication of her passion to become a teacher.