THE PLIGHT OF THE FORGOTTEN DEAF IN CAMEROON
By The Rt. Rev. Michael Jarrett Pastor- Salem Bible Church, Munich, ND
Missionary Bishop – The United Anglican Church Province II
It has been said “to not be able to hear is a nuisance, but to not be able to communicate a tragedy”. Every good thing in our lives comes from the ability to communicate: friendship, romance, learning, questioning, discovering our world and interacting in it as well as searching for spiritual meaning.
Can you imagine what it would be like to be born deaf and be given no opportunity to learn how to communicate? This is the situation for many of the deaf in developing countries. The deaf are often treated as though they are incapable of learning, mentally deficient and even demon possessed in developing countries like Cameroon.
Without education the deaf are unable to read, write and sign, leaving them trapped in a silent world destined for poverty. Without a voice, the deaf are easily victimized, with no recourse or expectation of justice.
Unlike our country where the deaf can go to either specialized schools for the deaf or be “mainstreamed” into local public schools, Cameroon has only a handful of schools to serve the deaf. With an estimated population of 35,000 deaf, Cameroon has less than ten schools for the deaf, most with less than fifty students.
Because the government of Cameroon made little provision for deaf schools, each family must pay for their deaf child’s education. Because the schools are usually not local enough for daily travel they are almost always residential schools. This means the additional cost of food and housing must be provided for the deaf student. Simply put, most parents in Cameroon cannot afford to send their deaf children to school even if there was one near them.
In Matthew 25 31:46 Jesus tells the story of the end of days when He will separate the “sheep” from the “goats”. His point in this Scripture is that when we take care of those marginalized in society, (the poor, forgotten deaf, imprisoned etc.) we are taking care of Him. And the Scripture warns that if we neglect those “forgotten” by society we are neglecting Him.
This Scripture motivates me, because I believe it is important that we do something about this situation in Cameroon and in other areas where the deaf are given no opportunity to learn to communicate. As a pastor, my heart goes out to the deaf who have never “heard” the Gospel. But for the deaf in places like Cameroon they must first be given a chance to “have a life” and only then can we consider their need of the “New Life” that comes from the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The works begins with investing finances to buy land, build buildings, provide curriculum, teachers and other needs.
We have begun with a school in Obala, Cameroon”. Our goal is to help create a self- sustaining school that will teach the deaf to communicate, train them in a vocation and encourage them to give back to the deaf community by serving in the schools for the deaf.
We know that if we teach a child to communicate we have changed his destiny forever. We also believe that in the day in which we stand before Jesus, He will say “Good job!, In helping the forgotten deaf, you have remembered those who are close to my Father’s heart”! To learn more about our ministry to the deaf view our website at: www.friendsofthedeaf.net