A woman from Caythorpe is helping to build a school for deaf children in Kenya.
Michelle Morris, 22, is taking part in Project Riandu, which aims to build a specialised secondary school with capacity for 200 deaf students to fully board, with a particular focus on boosting employment opportunities and promoting integration of deaf people in eastern Kenya.
She is spending two weeks helping construction of the largest section of the school to date.
Before she embarked on her journey, last Saturday, Michelle learned some Kenyan sign language and hit the gym to build up her strength and endurance.
As well as the hard manual labour involved with construction, Michelle and the other volunteers have an equally large and important role – to educate the local community, show compassion and promote the inclusion of deaf children. Their message is that disability does not equal inability.
“There’s a real stigma attached to deafness in Kenya,” said Michelle. “Having a deaf child is often seen as a curse. Deaf children are bullied, abused and in extreme cases even killed; it’s heart-breaking.
“We’re working closely with the Mbeere Mothers Union in Kenya to try and change that culture. We want to show that we value every child and I really hope we can help to start changing attitudes.”
She added: “I’d been thinking about volunteering for a while then when I found out about Project Riandu I thought to myself, this is it, this is how I can make even more of a difference.”
When Michelle told her employer, private tuition business Tutor Doctor, what she hoped to do, she was given support through the donation of funds and resources to the project.
Tutor Doctor president Frank Milner said: “Our mission is about improving the lives of children and empowering them through learning. Only 12 per cent of deaf people are educated to secondary school level in Kenya, it’s really shocking. The link up with Project Riandu couldn’t be more significant for us, we’re so proud and passionate about helping these children to have better lives and a brighter future.”
Michelle and all Project Riandu volunteers are self-funded. This means that they must pay for and arrange their own flights, accommodation and food for the duration of their trip.
Michelle and the Tutor Doctor team are doing all they can to raise money for the build, including sponsored sporting events (Michelle recently completed a 10k marathon in London), hosting coffee mornings and making personal donations.
Volunteers visiting the site this August to help with construction are all fund-raising and have pledged £20,000 between them. The project needs £80,000 for building materials this summer and are currently halfway there with £65,000 secured.
To help, visit mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/michellemorris1