Ever since I started working at Fountain of Hope Lubuto Library in Kamwala, I enjoy it to the fullest. The greetings and smiles from the vulnerable children light up my day completely. Girls and boys coming from different environments all decide to enter the library daily and weekly to use the programs to their advantage. One particular child is a girl named Grace*.
Grace is a 10-year-old girl who is deaf, she can’t hear nor can she talk or sign. The children call her "chibulu" which means "deaf person" in the local language, Cinyanja. Every time she visits the library alone or with friends, she knows she firstly needs to sign her name on the sign-in sheet in the Reading Room, because she always asks for the pen, using basic hand signals. Despite her silent communication, she participates in almost every library program; it really amazes all of us, as library staff.
After signing her name, she enjoys running to the Art Room to start using the library's devices: LubutoLaptops and zEdupads. Those are most likely her favorite programs because she spends a lot of time there. While waiting for her turn, she decides to play with the wooden and magnetic blocks as well as the chess pieces. In time, she is given her favourite device and enjoys it with the 20 minutes she has been given. While observing her, she doesn’t talk but constantly smiles. When it is time up, she runs out to the Reading Room to pick some books to read.
Even though she can’t participate in LubutoStorytime and ask questions like all the other children do, she makes her own story in her mind and tries to communicate with me based on the pictures in the book. In order to make children more aware of their deaf peers, we often display posters of the alphabet, greetings and counting in Sign Language on the library front desk. The alphabet poster particularly has intrigued her because she enjoys copying the letter hand signs. She also enjoys participating in the games played just before LubutoMentoring and LubutoDrama sessions commence. She actively joins in and is not shy to copy the other children. LubutoArt has also captured her love for drawing and coloring because as soon as she sees a blank paper, she asks for it.
My heart aches because this little girl is a happy child who cannot hear, yet she is so amused and interested in the programs the library has to offer her and other vulnerable children. Grace brings out the importance of having learning programs for children with special needs. Sometimes, there can be busy and tough days at the library but she reminds me that my job is totally worth it.
*name changed to ensure anonymity