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A mother and son’s journey to literacy

Published Date: 14 Nov 2023

How a mother of a deaf child was supported to learn to read and write herself, and is now an educator and advocate for deaf children in her community

Deaf Child Worldwide’s partner Citizens Association for Rural Development (CARD), an NGO working in Odisha, eastern India, recently shared with us a story about an extraordinary leader in its community.

Jhumuri, a mother of a deaf child, joined CARD’s Parent Support group in 2018. Parent Support Groups are for hearing parents of deaf children, where they provide support to parents who have recently found out their child is deaf. They learn together about what deafness is and isn’t, how to communicate, and how to support their children’s education.

Jhumuri joined so that she could learn how to support her deaf son. Much of the discussion was centred on how to teach deaf children literacy. At first Jhumuri sat in silence. Finally she shared with the group that she could not read or write herself and was feeling sad that this meant she could not help her son.

The Parent Support Group decided they must teach Jhumuri to read and write. Jhumuri’s job as a daily labourer meant she had very little time to learn, so they helped her train as a seamstress, which is a better paid job. Jhumuri had more time to learn thanks to her new job, and is now literate, able to support her son’s education, and is earning more money for the family. She has become a valuable and trusted member of the Parent Support Group. Jhumuri has been to local schools to show education staff how to make visual teaching materials that are much more accessible to deaf children. She has even been to state level meetings with Government officials to champion for certain resources to be used in classrooms which are designed for deaf children’s learning styles.

Jhumuri currently volunteers at CARD as a resource parent, teaching deaf children to read and write, as she now has expertise in literacy development. She also is an advocate for other parents of deaf children with low literacy by ensuring they follow the same path as her.

One story, a global problem

UNESCO estimates there are 773 million illiterate adults around the world, most of whom are women.

Jhumuri’s experiences are representative of the multiple and intersecting barriers parents of deaf children in marginalised communities face.

We know from more than two decades of work that when parents receive the right support, they can build strong relationships with their deaf child, support them with their studies, and enable them to be part of community life. But they can’t do this alone.

Jhumuri has overcome barriers she has faced, thanks to the support she has received from CARD and the Parent Support Group where she is now a leader. Deaf Child Worldwide believes every deaf child’s family should receive the support they need to bring down the many barriers that face the whole family.