Every person should have the human right to speak for themselves. But the reality is that vulnerable and deprived children in an isolated area of Ogongo, Kenya, have been denied this right. They are deaf, coming from a background of extreme poverty and hardship, including many AIDS orphans. Social prejudice often isolates them and puts them at risk.
Now, dedicated people in Kenya and Britain are helping to turn their plight around for a more hopeful future at Lambwe Christian School for the Deaf.
An urgent concern for these children has led Martin Mackenzie of Warwick to engage in several demanding activities. Because Lambwe Christian School for the Deaf is a project of Siloam Christian Ministries in Warwickshire, he began by tirelessly fundraising for this local charity in the area. Then came numerous, long and strenuous trips to the school itself.
Because of his passion to provide better living conditions, he successfully undertook the mammoth task of raising both the funds and means to bring electricity to this remote area. Now he is working equally hard to provide a source of safe water for this residential community.
But perhaps Martin's real achievement is more difficult to measure. It is the personal concern for each child faced with such disadvantages – and the determination to make a difference. Dedicated Kenyan team members work hard to lovingly ensure that children with special needs will have educational opportunities. Yet their ability to see a better future remains vital as Martin explains how he brought a pencil sharpener for each of the younger children.
"Very few of these children have any personal possessions and a little thing like this gives them a psychological boost. Each older child was given a 'Scripture pen'. These have little windows on each side of the barrel and every time the button is pressed, the barrel rotates to show one of eight different Scriptures. Again, this may be their sole personal possession apart from absolute essentials such as clothes or a toothbrush."
On his latest journey this autumn, he noted, "I have frequently prayed to see the children healed and talking. Today, whilst I was videoing, one of the year seven girls started talking to me. Obviously, I was surprised but realized that she couldn't hear me, at least not well, and she couldn't understand me when I asked her name. When I asked her if she could lip read, she signed, 'Partially'."
This special touch reflects a welcome breakthrough because some of the students now benefit from speech therapy. A new development, it presents a stark contrast to the background of most students as no one communicated with them prior to their coming to Lambwe.
Networking widely, Martin and others ensure that these vulnerable young people will realise their potential – and also speak out for themselves.