BY Ryan McDougall | March 15 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print

11-gambia

Inspiring story of Gambian boy’s courage

Ryan McDougall meets a deaf boy making national headlines and the Catholic charity helping him hear

The story of a deaf Gambian boy has touched the hearts of Catholics across Scotland in the last few months.

Muhammed Cham is one of the children from St John’s School for the Deaf in the country’s Banjul Diocese.

The school is supported by Motherwell Diocese based charity Project Gambia, and the generous volunteers from the group last month brought Muhammed to Scotland for an operation to improve his hearing.

During his time in the country, Muhammed and Project Gambia volunteers visited the SCO’s Glasgow offices.

St John’s School for the Deaf is one of the only schools of its kind in the country. For deaf children in Gambia life can be very difficult.

Job prospects are limited and making friends is tough, as they are often unable to communicate with others whose knowledge of sign language is either restricted or non-existent. Conversation for these children is often confined to the classroom.

Project Gambia’s mission is to change that, and to date it has donated more than 1,500 hearing aids for children in the African country, as well as providing school meals.

The charity also delivers school clothes, bags and stationary to the youngsters, meaning they are better equipped for a world in which deaf people are often left by the wayside.

14-year-old Muhammed has lived his whole life with a curable form of deafness and Project Gambia vowed to help him when they first met seven years ago.

Now that the charity has more resources, it has been able to win a gruelling Visa battle for Muhammed, bringing him to Scotland for an operation to treat his deafness.

On Wednesday March 13, Muhammed’s hearing aid was finally switched on.

While in Scotland Muhammed has been living with Paul Lafferty, a co-founder of Project Gambia, and has made headlines as his story went viral on social media.

Mr Lafferty accompanied the youngster on a recent trip to Celtic Park for a football game, where he said Muhammed had an ‘absolute ball.’

“He met all the players and a few people came up to him outside asking to get their photos taken,” he said, adding: “He’ll end up starting to charge people for their autographs.”

Muhammed is set to head home at the end of March, but there are still a few surprises in store for him.

On Saturday March 16, he celebrated his 14th birthday at Holy Family Church in Mossend, before heading back to his parents and brothers in Gambian with his new lease of life.

Aidan Curivan, a fundraiser for Project Gambia, said: “I think any chapel hall would have jumped at the chance to host his birthday, and he’s had about six birthday cakes donated, so it’ll be a good night.

“He won’t be able to see his family on his birthday, and we want to show him he’s got a family here in Scotland as well, and there’ll be loads of people at the party who he’ll know are very caring.”

Young Muhammed, who is known as ‘Alieu,’ has in turn helped raise the profile of the charity’s work.

“I would say it’s been rewarding for him and for the charity,” Mr Lafferty said. “It lets people see exactly what can be done, what they’re donating to, and what they’re buying into.”

Mr Curivan added: “There’s been a lot of people following him, and I mean a lot of people.

“The Facebook likes you’ll see have continually went up, so I’d say it’s been a big thing from the charity’s point of view.”

Mr Lafferty said: “We’re not trying to parade him or anything of course, and his parents are 100 per cent backing us.”

“We asked them if it’s OK if we take him to Masses and they said ‘please, by all means, if it helps the charity.’

Alieu’s support has reaped rewards for Project Gambia, as his story has highlighted their work and resulted in an increase in donations.

In fact, Project Gambia have now announced they will be able to support a second place of education in Gambia: St Patrick’s Lower Basic School, where more than 650 pupils are taught.

The school is severely affected by poverty, and hasn’t had any food in its kitchens for six years.

The charity’s decision to support St Patrick’s is rooted in its history, having hosted their first ever appeal in St Patrick’s Church in Wishaw.

As Alieu and the Project Gambia team left the SCO’s office, the youngster made a sign with hands somewhere between a salute and a wave. In sign language, it means ‘thank you.’

— To find out more about the charity, visit www.project-gambia.org or search: Project Gambia: People Feeding People on Facebook.

 

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