News

Community all ears to deaf initiative

Joel and Ceilidh Mwesigwa have started up Boanerges Deaf Initiative which spreads awareness for deafness equality in Uganda. Photo: Inga Williams / The Satellite
Joel and Ceilidh Mwesigwa have started up Boanerges Deaf Initiative which spreads awareness for deafness equality in Uganda. Photo: Inga Williams / The Satellite Inga Williams

WHEN your brother is beaten to death, it's difficult to find the positive.

It's even more difficult when the man's only crime was to be deaf.

For Ugandan Joel Mwesigwa, the tragic incident changed his life forever.

Since then he has devoted himself to helping deaf people in his country.

"Deaf people in Uganda are called 'kasiru', meaning 'stupid' or 'foolish'," Mr Mwesigwa said. "Deaf children are seen as evil or cursed.

"Most parents feel ashamed to have a deaf child and so the child suffers because their parents and communities reject them.

"They can be locked in a cage, starved, tied to a tree or brutally abused."

His brother, who became deaf in his early teens and had difficulty communicating, had worked as a courier in Uganda.

Police stopped him one day, suspecting him of carrying stolen goods. He could not answer their questions, and was beaten to death.

Joel Mwesigwa and his family found him and buried him at their family burial site.

The incident prompted Mr Mwesigwa to start the Boanerges Deaf Initiative, and he shared his story with community groups including Kiwanis in south-west Brisbane during a recent visit to the area.

He was joined by his wife, former Rosewood resident Ceilidh Mwesigwa - a teacher who herself was born profoundly deaf.

His not-for-profit organisation was established in 2006, to provide the best services and education possible for deaf children in Uganda and change community attitudes towards deafness.

Starting the initiative with nothing, Mr Mwesigwa began teaching deaf children under a tree in a friend's compound.

"We later moved to an abandoned building, with no windows and missing walls and operated the school out of there," he said.

It was at that time, Mrs Mwesigwa first visited the school and met her future husband during her initial trip to Uganda in 2010.

As a deaf person, the 22-year-old said she had always received overwhelming support from her family, friends and the community.

"So it was a shock to see deaf children shunned by their families and treated so badly when I first arrived in Uganda," she said.

Mrs Mwesigwa said it was the support from her own community that had inspired her to travel to Uganda and help at the school.

"I only learnt to speak five years ago, after the community raised $30,000 for me to get a cochlear implant," she said.

"It was so much given to one deaf person and I knew there were a lot more kids like me out there that needed help.

"So after that moment, I decided that I wanted to teach and help deaf children."

The organisation currently looks after 30 children at their school in central Uganda and 90 children at another facility in northern Uganda.

Still woefully underfunded, Mr Mwesigwa said the project was slowly achieving its aim of putting value on deaf people in the country.

"When parents witness the change in their children, they do away with their negative attitude," he said.

"And it particularly helps change people's mentality when they see white, deaf people like Ceilidh in their community.

Mr Mwesigwa said his dream was to build an institution where deaf children in Uganda could become self reliant.

"And create a community with no barriers, like here in Australia, where deaf people can freely associate with other hearing people."

For more information or to donate to the Boanerges Deaf Initiative, visit www.boanergesdeafinitiative.org.

Topics:  deaf, hearing impaired, uganda


Stay Connected

Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.

Paramedics fought to save drowned toddler's life

Police at the scene of a drowning in Helidon Spa.

Toddler's death is third Lockyer Valley drowning in 17 months

Could this be the region's most diverse school?

Georgia Vaaelua, Year 6, and Riyak Rahmanhasan, Year 5.

Inala students share their traditions

How you can help save a baby's life

REV UP: Mater Little Miracles (front) Connor Brown, Lee Young, Snr Sgt Terry Armstrong, Debbie Battle, Donna Kent and Gary Smalley.

"Every dollar raised counts"

Latest deals and offers

Woman, 22, has died from injuries after Underwood crash

UPDATE: A 22-year-old woman has died from her injuries after a crash involving three people in Underwood.

Paramedics fought to save drowned toddler's life

Police at the scene of a drowning in Helidon Spa.

Toddler's death is third Lockyer Valley drowning in 17 months

Could this be the region's most diverse school?

Georgia Vaaelua, Year 6, and Riyak Rahmanhasan, Year 5.

Inala students share their traditions

How you can help save a baby's life

REV UP: Mater Little Miracles (front) Connor Brown, Lee Young, Snr Sgt Terry Armstrong, Debbie Battle, Donna Kent and Gary Smalley.

"Every dollar raised counts"

Shots fired at three cars in south-east Queensland

Police believe the gunfire came from "another moving vehicle".

Die-hard fan's 34 magic Gympie Muster years

STICK AROUND FOR A BEER: Mal Williams has been at every Gympie Muster for 34 years.

Mal Williams has only missed one Muster in 35 years - the first one

Maryborough couple's wedding turned in a viral nasty joke

UNHAPPY: Maryborough couple Emma and Steven Dilliway who star on Australia's Cheapest Wedding and are not happy with the outcome.

Reality television helped turn this wedding into an internet joke

John Krasinski has better sex now he's in good shape

John Krasinski says there's at least one good reason to get jacked

Kanye West gets 'free reign' at VMAs

Kanye West has been let off the leash for the VMAs

Robbie Williams sings at manager's funeral

Robbie Williams and Lamar sang at the funeral of their manager

Twice as much Troy will please country music lovers

CATCH HIM WHILE YOU CAN: Singer Troy Cassar-Daley plans to take some time off to spend with family next year.

TROY Cassar-Daley is releasing a new album and book.

Courtney Stodden gets Reborn Doll

Courtney Stodden is trying to get over her recent miscarriage

REVEALED: Pat Rafter's $18m Coast house on the market

Check out the photos of the Coast's most expensive property for sale

The "correction we had to have" in Gladstone's rentals

UPWARD MARCH: The rental vacancy rate in Gladstone has improved for the first time in more than a year, providing a confidence boost in the market.

Vacancy rates improve with signs that things are getting betterF

ISLAND FOR SALE: Cheap Fraser Coast island drops price again

Suna Island in the Great Sandy Strait will be auctioned by Ray White Hervey Bay on Saturday morning.

This is the cheapest island you will find for sale in Australia

How a family home can fit on a 250sq m block

This is what you can build on 250m2.

Here's the floor plan of a home built on 250sq m

$100m plan for Curtis Island 'world class' luxury resort

$100 million resort: Top views at Turtle Street at Curtis Island.

"At the moment we think it meets all the town planning approvals.”

Noosa mayor on "red alert" over planning court decision

Mayor Tony Wellington hands down his first budget.

Mayor upset at lack of say about look and feel of Noosa