London mum urges local community to volunteer
1 June 2016
As the UK celebrates Volunteers’ Week (1-12 June), an East London mum has shared her volunteering experiences to encourage others to give something back to their community.
Raena Raja, who lives in Redbridge, spent almost a decade volunteering for the National Deaf Children’s Society after her son was diagnosed as profoundly deaf.
Having struggled to get the right support for her son, Raena couldn’t imagine how hard it must be for families who don’t have English as a first language. Research has shown that deaf awareness is not as high within the BME community, and there are many cultural taboos around deafness and disability.
Raena frequently sought guidance and advice from the National Deaf Children’s Society while her son was growing up, and wanted to give something back. She became a BME Network Volunteer, helping families around East London who speak Urdu and Hindi to access all the help available, as well as giving them support and encouragement.
Raena said: “Being able to help others who were in my situation is the best feeling – maybe something I say will change a family’s attitude to deafness, and so change life for a deaf child.
“I think there is a general lack of awareness about deafness in our community, but once you explain it to people, their attitudes change: they soon realise that deaf people are only different in the way that they communicate.
“The first line of support for deaf children is their families. It’s so rewarding to give parents some guidance and see them becoming happier and more confident, because you know that the child will be happier and more confident too.”
One issue Raena often saw during her volunteer work for the National Deaf Children’s Society was that deaf children could not access social activities that their hearing friends took for granted – things like swimming lessons, sports clubs and Sunday school.
She commented: “Speaking to families, the same difficulties kept coming up. One mum had to take her deaf son out of church because he would speak too loudly and other people didn’t understand. Another said that people at her synagogue tried to be supportive but really she felt pitied, not included.”
Raena is particularly passionate about equal access to religious education, and recently started volunteering for a new project in Tower Hamlets where she will break complex religious concepts down into accessible lessons for deaf children. Ultimately, she hopes this will be rolled out across multiple London boroughs and religious communities.
Raena said: “Volunteers are so much more important than people realise; it’s not just something you do to tick a box or to put on your CV. You can effect change.
“I’ve seen parents go from having a minimal grasp of English to standing up and discussing their child’s needs at a tribunal, all because we gave them the right advice and support. You really can make a huge, huge difference.”
Kate Goddard, who manages the charity’s Community Support Volunteer programme, added: “Volunteers like Raena are crucial in helping us to support deaf children and their families all over the country.
“There are more than 45,000 deaf children in the UK, and 90% are born to hearing parents with no experience of deafness. As Raena’s story shows, for these families, having someone there to offer impartial advice, encouragement and support can be genuinely life-changing.”
For details of current volunteering opportunities at the National Deaf Children’s Society, go to www.ndcs.org.uk/volunteer.
For further information please contact Lindsey Frodsham, Media Relations Officer, on 020 7014 1178 or email@example.com.
Notes to editors
• The National Deaf Children’s Society is the leading charity dedicated to creating a world without barriers for deaf children and their families.
• There are more than 45,000 deaf children in the UK. The National Deaf Children’s Society helps deaf children and young people thrive by providing impartial, practical and emotional support to them and their families, and by challenging governments and society to meet their needs.
• The National Deaf Children’s Society believes that every deaf child should be valued and included by society and have the same opportunities as any other child.
• For more information visit www.ndcs.org.uk. For further support, parents can contact the National Deaf Children’s Society Freephone Helpline on 0808 800 8880 (voice and text), email firstname.lastname@example.org, or chat online at www.ndcs.org.uk/livechat