Shona’s making a difference in Kenya

Shona Ramsay-Hogan , front row, second right, with fellow volunteers, back row, from left, Levi Choutan, Sara Kendall, Pavundeep Johal and Diarmuid Laverty and, front Asher Woodman-Worrell, Ruta Vysniauskaite, Laura Klasupa and Sanjeeda Choudhury.

Shona Ramsay-Hogan , front row, second right, with fellow volunteers, back row, from left, Levi Choutan, Sara Kendall, Pavundeep Johal and Diarmuid Laverty and, front Asher Woodman-Worrell, Ruta Vysniauskaite, Laura Klasupa and Sanjeeda Choudhury.

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A young deaf woman from Carnoustie has travelled 4000 miles to volunteer on a project that aims to empower deaf Kenyan children and young people.

Shona Ramsay-Hogan (21) is currently in Africa with youngsters in Nandi County, Kenya, to enable them to achieve more in education and employment.

She is one of a team of deaf 18-to-25-year-olds participating in the unique project, arranged and managed by the international development organisation VSO and deaf charity Deafway, as part of the UK Government funded International Citizen Service (ICS) programme.

After travelling to Kenya on June 29, Shona and her eight team-mates, are working alongside young deaf Kenyan volunteers and a number of local organisations, running awareness-raising campaigns, creating educational materials on deaf issues and holding public events to integrate the deaf and hearing communities. Their activities have been designed to increase social, education and economic opportunities for young deaf Kenyans living in Nandi, who face further marginalisation in a region already bearing incredibly high levels of poverty.

Shona said before she left: “I’m most looking forward to meeting the deaf community in Kenya and seeing how their views on being deaf compare to people here.

“We have quite a strong deaf culture in the UK, but you also get people at the other end of the spectrum. For me, it’s not really about taking away any one particular thing from the experience – the whole point of VSO is to create long-term change.

“It’s a real once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I hope to make some lifelong friends. I’m looking forward to working alongside young deaf Kenyans and living together in our host homes. This will give us a real handle on the challenges young deaf Kenyans face and better understand and gain the trust of the community we’re working in.”

Deaf people in Kenya can face discrimination as a result of misconceptions about what it is to be deaf.

The Deafway ICS project was developed as a result of research that found Nandi County had the lowest number of community support systems for deaf children and youth of any area in Kenya.

Before Shona left for Kenya, she raised £900, which will go towards making sure some of the poorest countries can continue to benefit from the work of future volunteers.

On returning, Shona will also take on an ‘action at home’ project, ensuring that her new skills also benefit the local community. More than 10,000 young people from the UK have taken part in the scheme in the past five years.