London mum urges local community to volunteerPublished Date: 05 Jun 2016
As we celebrate Volunteers’ Week this week, one East London mum has shared her experiences to encourage others to give something back to their community.
Raena Raja spent almost a decade volunteering for the National Deaf Children’s Society after her son was diagnosed as profoundly deaf. Like 90% of parents of deaf children, she had no experience of deafness, so Raena frequently came to us for help and advice while her son was growing up.
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.
Keen to give something back, Raena became a BME Network Volunteer, helping families who speak Urdu and Hindi to access local services and giving them emotional support and encouragement.
Raena said: “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.
“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. 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 really can make a huge, huge difference.”
Kate Goddard, who manages our Community Support Volunteer programme, added: “Volunteers like Raena are crucial in helping us to support deaf children and their families all over the country. As her story shows, having someone there to offer impartial advice, encouragement and support can be genuinely life-changing.”
If you're as inspired by Raena as we are, check out the current volunteering opportunities at the National Deaf Children’s Society.