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Advancing DeafKidz Jamaica! Sports Festival is a Winner!

Young girl at the DeafKidz Jamaica sports dayD/deaf children and adults from across Jamaica converged on the island’s Mona Bowl for the first ever DeafKidz Jamaica sports day.

The two-day event saw hundreds of children from schools for the D/deaf across the island compete against each other in netball, football, track and field and table tennis on day one, whilst D/deaf adults also joined the action for day two!

The festival was aimed at enabling D/deaf children and young people to participate in a fun sport activity which also, through a series of carefully planned activities, delivered and reinforced messaging on safeguarding, child rights and child protection. All of which served to raise awareness of abuse and how best to mitigate its occurrence.

Executive Officer of the Jamaica Association for the Deaf, Iris Soutar; “Deaf children tend to face stigma and discrimination which leads to low self-concepts. Thus, one of the aims of the sports day is to empower the children through sports. The Advancing DeafKidz Jamaica! sports day helped to provide numerous opportunities for developing self-esteem and self-respect”.

Poster for the DeafKidz Jamaica sports dayIn partnership with DeafKidz International, who provided development support and guidance, the Jamaica Association for the Deaf has worked to build a far reaching collaboration between the University of Technology, the Sports Development Foundation and Deaf Sport Jamaica. Working together, a robust foundation has been established; one that will enable future festivals to have an even greater impact as Stephanie McIntyre-Groves, Project Co-ordinator, explains; “This festival is a first. It builds upon Deaf Sport Jamaica’s existing work but enables us to ensure distinct activity around safeguarding occurs with both D/deaf children and, of course, their parents. This festival has been a considerable success and we were pleased to have the opportunity to continue dialogue with our partners at the British High Commission, UNESCO, UNICEF and DFID, as we work to further develop our programmatic work both in Jamaica and across the wider Caribbean. As a D/deaf led organisation with an authentic voice, we’re about getting things done”.

Countering the Radicalisation of D/deaf Young People

Wall art of angry eyesWe’re aware that in recent months, extremists have sought to rally D/deaf young people to their differing causes using a range of media including interpreted You-Tube videos. This is clearly alarming and its something we’re not prepared to see happen. We’re simply not having it – impressionable young people corrupted to some cause or other. No.

Consequently, drawing reference from our Child Rights & Child Protection work with the UK Police Link Officer for the Deaf scheme, we’ll be looking at the issue of radicalisation in the D/deaf community and how we can counter such challenges in the country of origin. Our expert advisers will work with us to devise a response that will look to address the challenge of extremisim across the broad spectrum of faith and belief. There’s a lot to do, but we’ll be presenting our thinking to a number of social investers and also at the International Conference on Children and Armed Conflict in Kenya next year.

You can be sure, we won’t allow D/deaf children and young people to be murderously manipulated by anyone.

Determining Ear & Hearing Care Pathways for DeafKidz in Pakistan!

Dr Ijaz Bashir of the Decent Welfare Society launches the screening pilot

Dr Ijaz Bashir of the Decent Welfare Society launches the screening pilot

Deafkidz International has been working with its local partner in Gujrat, the Decent Welfare Society, to trial a new pathway of care that sees immunisation workers conduct behavourial new-born hearing checks. This is aimed at identifying Deafness at the earliest opportunity so that an appropriate response can be determined for the new-born in question – this usually involving onward referral for detailed audiological assessment. The hearing check is very simple and can be conducted by any healthcare professional – using a rattle to see if the child responds to noise.

There are few consistent strategies for newborn, infant or child hearing screening so this trial makes use of an existing healthcare capacity – immunisation workers. As they are already engaging with new-borns, neonates and their parents, the hearing check test is added to their clinical task sheet. In addition, specific training is given in communicating with parents so that they can appraise and reassure parents of the next steps should Deafness be suspected. This in turn ensures early intervention and generates a health-economic return; with early detection meaning the better use of often limited and scarce resources.

The trial is centred at the Decent Welfare Society’s Bashir Hospital in Gujrat and once evaluated, it will be rolled out to other districts in Punjab. This sees DeafKidz International working to progress a locally led and driven screening programme, that supports the development of robust and sustainable public health ear and hearing care capacities. “We’re going to prove our case in Gurjat and get to a point where we have a national new-born hearing screening programme in Pakistan” said DeafKidz International’s Steve Crump. “There are many challenges to overcome, but with first class partners such as the Decent Welfare Society, we can achieve great things and really make a difference. We’ll leave no D/deaf new-born behind in Pakistan”.

Inclusive Child Rights & Protection Malaysia – We’re Pushing the Boundaries…

Photograph of Stuart Harrison and Emma Gilbert at the ISPCAN's 10th Asia Pacific ConferenceDeafKidz International Head of Programmes, Stuart Harrison, and criminal justice/policing adviser Emma Gilbert, of the UK Police Link Officer for the Deaf scheme, presented the case for inclusive child rights and child protection provision at ISPCAN’s 10th Asia Pacific Conference on Child Abuse and Neglect. Highlighting the learning from our emerging work in South Africa and our partnerships with both Child Helpline International and Childline South Africa, Stuart and Emma, presented on the challenges of ensuring D/deaf children and young people are safeguarded.

With the sexual abuse of D/deaf children a global outrage, Stuart and Emma urged the delegates to look at their own organisations and work to see how the rights, protection, communication and linguistic needs of D/deaf children and young people are addressed. And if not, what steps should be undertaken to ensure proper communication support and, thereby, access. As always, the lack of understanding and awareness of the needs of D/deaf children in safeguarding, policing and criminal justice settings was both staggering and worrying. And in some cases, their specialist needs dismissed with the wave of a hand. We’re not having that.

In low resource settings, poor maternal and neonatal care leads to high levels of Deafness, yet few recognise the real numbers – perhaps as many as two in ten infants / children. All of which suggest that high numbers of D/deaf children experience subsequent neglect and abuse requiring a safeguarding intervention. We can say that, because we know it happens; the evidence is there – D/deafness leads to abandonment, vulnerability and abuse. Yet safeguarding, policing and criminal justice professionals don’t know what to do – how to ensure a victim of abuse is afforded appropriate communication support during interview, how to use sign language interpreters in court settings and more. So we’ll keep going at this, till we get matters addressed and the millions of D/deaf children around the world get the just support they require.

Responding to the needs of deafened Ebola survivors

Photograph of an Ebola information sheetOne of the little known impacts of the West African Ebola crisis is that many survivors experience acquired D/deafness. Following a recent needs assessment to Sierra Leone, we’re looking at how the needs of newly D/deafened children and young people can be met. Having survived the horror of Ebola, many D/deafened children are being stigmatised and left to fend for themselves on the streets. Furthermore there is absolutely no provision for communication support, or speech & language therapy. Absolutely none as Steve Crump explains:

“It’s harrowing to meet children who are at a loss as to what has happened to them. The added tragedy being that many of the children are also Ebola orphans, having lost their parents and siblings to the disease. This is something we have to respond to”.

In partnership with WHO and a number of local NGOs in Sierra Leone, DeafKidz International is looking at how best to design and deliver a sustainable care pathway for D/deafened Ebola children. This is not easy in one of the lowest resourced nations on earth and where the threat of an Ebola resurgence remains, but our planning workshop in July will engage both practitioners and donors, as we work to ensure no D/deafened Ebola survivor is left behind.

Advancing DeafKidz Jamaica! Hits the breakfast TV screens

Stephanie Groves-McIntyre, Development Officer for the DeafKidz International programme, Advancing DeafKidz Jamaica!, and students from the Lister Mair/Gilby High School for the Deaf in the TV studioStephanie Groves-McIntyre, Development Officer for the DeafKidz International programme, Advancing DeafKidz Jamaica!, and students from the Lister Mair/Gilby High School for the Deaf found themselves on national TV as they demonstrated their dance moves to promote the Comic Relief funded venture!

They were adorning the nation’s TV screens to promote the work of DeafKidz International whilst also celebrating the work of the Jamaican Association for the Deaf during its Thanksgiving Week Celebration.

Timed to coincide with Jamaica’s National Child Month, there is much to praise with a whole host of activities and events taking place as Stuart Harrisons from DeafKidz International commented; ‘Everyone has been invited to attend the Jamaican Deaf Dance Festival, which is a partnership between Advancing DeafKidz Jamaica! and the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission. To be opened by the British High Commissioner to Jamaica, His Excellency David Fitton and by Mrs Hisae Fitton, the festival will empower D/deaf children, to affirm their rights to stay safe and live without the threat of abuse.’

All of which adds value to DeafKidz International’s growing programme of child rights and child protection activity. ‘From the success of our work in Jamaica we are now looking at a wider DFID and UNICEF’ said Stuart. ‘Be assured, we will never leave any D/deaf child behind.’

Kenya – Tackling the challenge of exercising sexual & reproductive health rights

Photograph of a box of unopened condomsWe’ve been working with Marie Stopes Kenya to ensure D/deaf adolescents and young adults are able to exercise their sexual and reproductive health rights. To this end, we’ve looked at current sexual healthcase practice to determine how best this important provision can be made available to D/deaf young people. Given that rates of HIV infection amongst D/deaf young people in Kenya, are higher than those for hearing, we have a real challenge here – to ensure messaging on safe sex and family planning are appropriately articulated and, thereby, susceptibility to HIV reduced. In addition, that clinical pathways are adjusted to encompass the distinct communication, linguistic and cultural needs of D/deaf young people.

There’s much to do and we shall continue to progress this vital work, as we look to configure a joint Marie Stopes / DeafKidz International sexual and reproductive health approach that can be cascaded globally across low resource healthcare settings.

And, as always, we’ll leave no D/deaf child or young person behind!

Tackling the rising abuse of D/deaf children in Zimbabwe

With our colleagues at DFID and UNICEF, and with our partners Childline Zimbabwe and the Deaf Zimbabwe Trust, we’re looking at the challenge of abuse against D/deaf children and young people in Zimbabwe. The reality is that there is no child rights and child protection provision in Zimbabwe for D/deaf children. So we’re working with the Deaf Zimbabwe Trust, to develop their capacity to deliver specialist training that encompasses the distinct communication, cultural and linguistic needs of D/deaf children.

In addition, we’re working with Childline Zimbabwe to ensure their provision is accessible and that D/deaf children who present at their twenty-two community based Drop In Centres are afforded appropriate support. The scale of the task here is staggering. In 2014, Childline Zimbabwe dealt with more than 7,000 Drop In cases. What proportion of these cases featured D/deaf children, we don’t know, but measures are being prepared to record this data, so that our approach is evidence based and we have a baseline from which we can assess the impact of our support. What is known is that levels of abuse are rising and this invariably includes abuse against D/deaf children.

We’ll leave no victim of sexual abuse behind…

Photograph of D7 Paediatric Sexual Assault Evidence Collection KitWe’ve been working with our partners in South Africa, Childline South Africa and with UK Police Link Offer’s for the Deaf (PLOD), to scope out our Signing Safe Futures programme. This will see DeafKidz International work to develop Childline South Africa’s capacity to respond to the needs of D/deaf children who have been victims of abuse – in particular sexual abuse. Our UK PLOD partners will work with the South African Police Service to develop a network of Police Link Officers for the Deaf, with responsibility for affording policing and criminal justice support to D/deaf children and young people who have become victims of crime. This initiative will include the development of communication skills for a range of legal professions including court intermediaries, prosecutors and more.

Delivered across the Childline South Africa network, Signing Safe Futures will see provision at thirteen Thuthuzela Care Centre’s made accessible to D/deaf children who have suffered rape, sexual and violent assault. Here clinical, policing and psycho-welfare support will be provided in the communication mode of choice. All of which serves to illustrate that no matter how difficult the issues, we’ll be there.

There is no immediate solution here – just the first phase of our programme which will take five years but with our partners, we’re committed to the long haul; to building an approach and capacity that can self-perpetuate and be sustainable.

Commissioner Malatji conducts inspections ensuring compliance with convention of rights of persons with disabilities

Photograph of South African Human Rights Commissionar MalatjiThe office of South African Human Rights Commissioner Malatji has the mandate to promote and protect the rights of persons with disability. Recognising that children with disability will be unable to participate fully in society if attitudinal and environmental barriers are not removed, the Commissioner is passionate about ensuring that rights of children with disabilities are protected and promoted.

In line with this, the Commissioner meets with various stakeholders to promote the rights of children with disability. One of such meetings is the dialogue with DeafKidz International. The purpose of this dialogue is to highlight the challenges faced by D/deaf children in South Africa and recommend solutions on how to ease these challenges in collaboration with DeafKidz International.

The Commissioner agreed to support DeafKidz International’s development programme in South Africa and to endorse its composite activities accordingly. DeafKidz International is to report its implementation of its abuse mitigation programme to Commissioner Malatji in the Spring of 2015. Commissioner Malatji is a huge advocate for the rights of D/deaf children and young people in South Africa. DeafKidz International warmly commends Commissioner Malatji’s support of its work.

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