Model Deafness Center – Bahir Dar

In the city of Bahir Dar (capital of the Amhara Region), Kal Center has been working hand-in-hand with our partners at Visions Global Empowerment (USA) in realizing the idea of having a “one-stop-shop” for services and empowerment of the Deaf community. Through a multi-faceted and comprehensive approach to Deafness, the Center provides services in education, language (especially Ethiopian Sign Language) development, interpreting, jobs training, access to information & services, medical care, mentorship, early childhood education, public education & awareness-raising, and connection with other Deaf communities & the larger outside world. Collectively, these efforts hold the potential to truly transform the lives of Deaf Ethiopians and their families and are already helping to create a newfound sense of hope. The ultimate intent is that the Center will eventually serve as an example for the nation and East Africa region in how to effectively serve and promote the overall development & well-being of this highly marginalized community.

The current list of major program activities and services of the Center include all of the following:

  • Daily instruction and tutorial support both during and after school hours for 85+ Deaf children (Grades 1-8) at 3 public schools in Bahir Dar with Deaf classrooms through the hiring of 4 full-time Deaf teachers (Visions also helped establish a Deaf Resource Room and new Deaf classroom at one of these schools)
  • In-class and after-school interpreting services for Deaf students in hearing-integrated classrooms (Grades 5 and above) by 2 full-time Interpreters
  • Preschool education for Deaf children and children who have Deaf parents (ages 3-6) led by 1 full-time Deaf teacher
  • Hearing Testing & Counseling services and provision of hearing devices for those identified as potential beneficiaries, as well as introductory Speech services
  • Community education, awareness-raising, and outreach activities to reduce stigma and increase general understanding of Deafness
  • Livelihoods development support for Deaf adults (ages 15-35) led by a part-time Vocational Training & Livelihoods Development Officer
  • Creation of public education materials, including short films and promotional materials, and teacher training materials and supplies
  • Regular weekly instruction in Ethiopian Sign Language for hearing schoolchildren (twice per week), teachers, school staff, Bahir Dar University – Special Needs Education Department students, Felege Hiwot Hospital medical students & staff, parents & family members of Deaf individuals, government representatives, and more
  • Social clubs & activities for Deaf youth & adults, including Deaf circus & football club
  • Creation of a virtual Ethiopia National Deaf Portal (in progress) – a single comprehensive site with information relevant to the Deaf community, including an e-archive of all related information, resources, EthSL learning materials, and directory of all parties working toward the empowerment of the Deaf community in Ethiopia
  • Regular cultural exchanges and special programs with volunteers from the U.S. and other countries (including 3 U.S. universities). To-date, 100+ foreign volunteers & visitors have joined us on the ground in working directly with the Deaf community in conducting educational programs and supporting the ongoing work at the Deafness Center.

Here are just a few insights from 2015 into the impact our efforts have had thus far: