ON THE GROUND: NDCS, Asian Family Communication Service, East London

Francois Le Goff

Scheme: A pilot project that trains deaf adults to work with Asian families with deaf children in Tower Hamlets and Newham

Funding: £128, 283 from the Community Fund over three years

Objectives: To help Asian families communicate with their deaf children

When Zobia Kalim started developing a project aimed at the Asian community in Tower Hamlets and Newham, she thought it would be a major challenge because Asian communities are often seen as tight-knit and difficult to penetrate. With 54 languages spoken in Newham alone, these communities are also very diverse and sometimes wary of intrusions.

But after spending just four months developing the project, 40 families were referred to Kalim through schools, local health and social services, showing a tremendous demand for deaf child support in Asian communities.

In addition, more than 20 families attended a Deaf Awareness Day organised by the National Deaf Children's Society for parents of deaf Bengali children in Tower Hamlets.

The project, part of the NDCS' Family Communication Service, links deaf adults from the local Asian community to families with deaf children. These deaf adults act as mentors for the children and show families that their children can look forward to bright and fulfilling futures. They teach families basic sign language and educate them about deafness. "We want to help families as much as we can and create awareness of the challenges facing deaf children in the Asian community," said Kalim. "These are not insurmountable and building positive attitudes towards deafness is vital."

With no indication of how people would react to the project, finding people from the community to provide the service and work with families in their home has been Kalim's most difficult task.

So far, she has managed to recruit and train two Asian women, each of them working with six families, but demand is hard to meet.

"When we advertised in April, it was difficult to find the right person because the applicants did not all have experience of working with children, or simply couldn't write English," she said. "But this time, more people have applied, and more are suitable because the project is better known."

Five people were interviewed last week and Kalim is hopeful that at least four of them will accept the job, bringing the team up to seven support workers.

Both families and support workers can learn about childhood deafness from fact sheets that can be downloaded from the NDCS website. This information is available in five main languages spoken in the two boroughs - Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, Punjabi and Urdu.

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