Well... where on earth to begin... to be totally honest this year has rushed past so quickly that I don't think I had a chance to stop and take it all in and when I look back at these images my heart does somersaults. Huge big somersaults for Zambia, the people.. the charity Soundseekers that is doing so much out there and for photography for giving me experiences that I never thought I would have.
Soundseekers are a UK based charity who work to improve the lives of Deaf and Hard of Hearing children and adults in the developing world. They develop and support projects that improve access to education, lessen the impact of hearing loss and raise awareness of Deaf people's abilities and needs.
If you read my blog you might know that Deafness and the Deaf community is quite a big part of my life. I've been learning British Sign Language for the past four years now and before the photography I worked as a Support Worker for Deaf Adults, volunteered for a Deaf and hearing Youth Theatre group and also acted with Deafinitely Theatre, a Deaf led theatre company.
So when the opportunity arose two years ago to potentially go over to Zambia and document the work that Soundseekers are doing.. I crossed everything and hoped that it would happen. Fast forward to this summer, an email from the wonderful Amy at Soundseekers confirming the trip and a month or so later and I was on a flight to Africa. Now I'd just like to point out that I hadn't been on a flight for about 4 years.. never travelled overseas on my own and had never been to Africa so I will happily admit that this was one of the biggest things I'd ever done... I was nervous but incredibly excited all at the same time.
Whilst out there I emailed Pete a few times with what was happening.. a sort of diary if you like.. so I thought it might be nice to share them along with some of the photos of the trip..
Tuesday 25th September 2012
I'm sat in my hotel room about to head to bed after getting up at 5:30am this morning and not getting back here until 6pm.. it's been a long day! But amazing.. we spent most of the day at the school where a bunch of kids were getting their hearing tested and then hearing aids fitted. Weirdly it also happens to be International Week of the Deaf this week so we had a bit of a celebration with teachers making little speeches, a Deaf guy doing a Sign Song and then impromptu dancing from all the kids.. it was absolutely wonderful. I remember filming a bit of the dancing and just looking around at the kids dancing and laughing and just an overwhelming surge of emotion hit me.. my eyes just filled up and I fought back the tears.. it was just such a magical moment that I will never, ever forget..
They even transformed the school yard with a newly laid path, some potted trees and hanging baskets and all the parents came to watch. The kids are AMAZING. At one point I had about 20 of them surrounding me making me teach them the BSL alphabet and then they wanted to know every word.. good, happy, hungry, proud, school.. giggling and showing each other the differences between the languages (they use ASL - American Sign Language). They all waited so patiently to have their hearing aids fitted and all day were just so helpful and polite and happy...
I then went with Adonye (he is a Doctor from London qualified in Ear, Nose and Throat who was also visiting) to Ndola hospital to see a few patients there. This was quite different. I think it's a relatively good hospital here.. but obviously compared to home it's very different. I watched a few children having check ups for respiratory issues and then we headed back to the school for the last bit of the day.
I've had such an incredible day... everyone you meet smiles and says hello or how are you and my goodness.. all the Deaf kids totally took my heart. The school has around 2000 pupils and then they have the Deaf unit which has around 70 kids altogether. They are all a mixture of profoundly Deaf and Hard of Hearing and most, from what I could see today are fluent in ASL. They have specialist Teachers of the Deaf who can all sign and it seems that they have a strong Deaf community within the school. I've taken around 600 photos today so I'm going to cull them now and edit a few.. I'll try and send a few over..
Wednesday 26th September 2012
We're about to head out for some food with a few of the Doctors/Nurses from the project who will carry on with the work when SoundSeekers leave.. today was quite a bit different from yesterday but still wonderful..
This morning I got dropped off at the school again to take some more photos of the children in their own classrooms. I will never, ever tire of seeing these kids.. they are an absolute pleasure to be around and their enthusiasm and smiles just totally melt me heart. It was so lovely to see so many of them in class with their newly fitted hearing aids.. I can't believe that I've only been here for two days..
We then headed to two different hospitals where Adonye was doing a presentation at each on ENT stuff.. it was really interesting to listen to.. all about ear, nose and throat and things that can lead to hearing loss. We then had a little ceremony in the car park where SoundSeekers officially handed over the HARK! vehicle to the hospital.. Emily invited five of the Deaf college students down to perform a Sign Song and speeches were made.. it felt like a real milestone and was so lovely to be a part of..
Thursday 27th September 2012
Adonye and I got up early and walked to the school to see everyone one last time. It's been such a short trip that we haven't really had time to get out and about. We said our goodbyes to the kids and I actually can't believe I'm flying home today.. on one hand the trip has flown by and in other ways I feel like I've been here for weeks..
We stopped off at the hospital saying more goodbyes to all the Doctors and Nurses and then heading back to Ndola Airport for the mammoth trip home.. ha and then shoot a wedding on Saturday.. I might need to sleep all tomorrow.. cannot wait to see you..
Here's a little video I shot whilst over there..
Sound Seekers from Emma Case on Vimeo.
We've also decided to not send Christmas Cards this year and instead have set up a JUSTGIVING page.. so if you were possibly going to send us a Christmas Card (and wouldn't mind donating instead) or if you feel like you would like to support SoundSeekers then any donation, however small would be hugely appreciated..