First Rural Outreach Day At The ALDS

For those rural Deaf children not lucky enough to have the opportunity to attend the school we organised a ‘Rural Outreach Program’. We invited the children, their parents and social affairs employees to visit the Deaf school and participate in a day of fun and learning. It proved to be a huge success and was repeated five times during the school year. Again, it was a privilege to be able to observe so many children arrive at the school; nervous and a little overawed by the welcome they received from our students. However, they quickly began to see themselves reflected in our students, could see that there was a means of communication that was accessible to them and were soon fully involved in playing some sports, trying to learn a Sign or two.

Rural outreach program: Children and Parents gather for a lesson in sign language.

However, another vital part of the program was the opportunity to meet with the parents of the children and facilitate them in discussing their concerns about their Deaf child, the problems they encounter in the local community, their exclusion from education etc. All of them agreed that having the opportunity to come to the school had really opened their minds to the potential their child possesses. They were intrigued to see the students who are already attending the school display just how capable they are when given the proper support in learning. A boarding facility at the ALDS would allow so many of these children the opportunity to prove their own abilities.

Fiona Broderick and her husband Matthew attended our final rural outreach day in July. Fiona works at the Irish embassy in Addis. The embassy have been very supportive of the school.

Lydia’s Place

September also saw Lydia’s Place become a space that was available to the children. They enjoyed the fact that it was a much more free and fluid space (we were using water based paints for the art classes…) It also proved really popular for the children to learn maths through the Numicon method. They could gather around tables and engage in learning with each other. As mentioned above the space was also ideal for the organising of the workshop for teachers. There is a TV in the room which is used for showing some educational videos, but they love when we put on Charlie Chaplain… It’s also the space for craft work and using the Kindle Tablets. We hope to put in a white board next Sept, it will be a sort of break out space from the formal setting of the classrooms…


New Students Register at the ALDS A New Space at Lydia’s Place

After our visit to the rural districts, we anticipated about 5 or 6 students might register at the school. We were genuinely a little shocked and of course delighted when day after day new students turned up at the gate of the school asking to be registered.

New students who registered at the ALDS.

Over a period of two weeks 22 new students enrolled at the school. The majority of these had arranged to stay with relations living in the town. A number had been accompanied to Ambo by an older sibling and were renting small houses close to the school. (Some of the student sponsorship money goes towards paying the cost of rental accommodation for the rural Deaf children).

A typical mud hut house in Ambo.

We had a slight concern about whether the new and the old students would mix together. However, within a few weeks nearly all of the newcomers had settled in and new friendships had been formed, these friendships have only been strengthened over the school term. Unfortunately a couple of the children found it difficult to adjust or their parents missed them and so they returned home. We are hopeful that we might be able to welcome them back some time in the future.


One of the biggest joys of working at the school this year has been the opportunity to observe the children from the countryside discover themselves at the school, begin to use signs and build friendships, to discover a language that allows them to learn and access subjects such as maths and English etc.

Some of our students are developing a bit of an attitude!

Visit to the rural districts to assess the situation of Deaf children

Our visit to the rural districts revealed the reality of so many Deaf children living in what can only be described as ‘double isolation’. Not only were they living in isolated communities, but were also living isolated lives within those communities. This was due to the fact that people in rural areas often associate deafness or disability as a curse.

Some of the deaf children who gathered to meet us at Enchine. (3.5-hour bus journey from Ambo).

Very few of the children we met had ever been to school as neither their parents nor the teachers in the local schools considered them capable of learning. Speaking to the parents of the children in their local language, our principal Mr Eshetu highlighted the many misconceptions that people have about deafness. He also told the parents about the Deaf school in Ambo and the potential it has to unlock the capacity for their children to participate fully and equally in both education and society. Given the right educational support, their Deaf child has the same ability to learn as their hearing siblings. While some of the parents found a lot of what was being said very challenging, the majority seemed relieved to learn this information and desperate for their child to receive such an opportunity. Indeed begged us to build such a school in their district. The social affairs employees mentioned that there were many more Deaf children registered with them, however some of them were too afraid to travel from their homes to attend these meetings.

Meeting some of the deaf children living in the rural district of Gedo.