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DeafNET looks back at the year in AGM

DeafNET held its annual general meeting at the De La Bat School hall on 24 August, the main theme being “Save our Deaf Children. Educate them.”

Deborah Iyute, Programme Coordinator at Uganda National Association for the Deaf (UNAD) and deputy chairperson for DeafNET, opened the AGM and welcomed all the dignitaries from across Africa and guests.

Dr Patrick Smith, chairperson of the DeafNET board of trustees, said in his address: “Having taken over from Reverend Smit, founder and first chairperson of the board of trustees, was indeed a challenge. At the end of this year we can look back and celebrate the outcomes accomplished. The last 12 months have seen an extension of the successes of the past, fine tuning the mechanisms of partnering and exploring opportunities to ensure a sustainable future for the organisation.”

Samantha Niemand from Mauritius, who is part of a scholarship project at DeafNET, explained how valuable the organisation has been to her.

“At school I was treated badly because I used sign language and I had to overcome that,” she said. “After school I got the opportunity to come and study at DeafNET, and it has changed my life completely. We are one big family at DeafNET.

“Through the network of DeafNET, youth leadership of deaf learners has been initiated and the lessons learnt could be replicated elsewhere once the programme is evaluated and the necessary funding secured. It is also necessary to mention the partnership entered into with the Department of Social Development for the training of the youth.”

“Youth Cafés seek to provide youth with a platform where they can access skills and personal development training, economic and social development opportunities,” said Smith, “aside from being creative spaces where they are able to express themselves at a local and global scale.”

Suzette Willemse, CEO of the DeafNET Centre of Knowledge, said the empowerment of its deaf leaders always remains a priority for DeafNET.

“The past year we have piloted leadership development at school level,” she said.

“I am also touched by the passionate way deaf leaders in Africa are taking responsibility for their own communities, by how they lead with dignity and how they design even initiatives in line with DeafNET’s objectives.”

Willemse is also humbled by educators who want to change the lives of deaf learners and educators who are being equipped to educate deaf children.

Certificates were also handed over for the leadership camp by Willemse and Smith and Carmelita Jeftha of the Tahlita Cume organisation.

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