Building a future for Kenya’s deaf children

Tutor Doctor takes its ‘everyone can learn’ philosophy to a new level by helping to build a school for deaf children in Kenya as part of Project Riandu.

On 13th August, Michelle Morris, marketing co-ordinator, will fly to rural Kenya. Michelle will spend two weeks helping construction of the largest section of the school to date. She’s already learnt some Kenyan sign language and has been hitting the gym to build up her strength and endurance for what is going to be a gruelling but incredibly worthy mission.

Building a school for the deaf was a dream of the Mbeere Mothers Union in Kenya. They reached out to Peter and Ali MacNaughton, a brother and sister duo from London, who have been instrumental in garnering support, skills and essential resources from the UK. Peter and Ali formed ‘Project Riandu’ and built strong relationships with Riandu’s local Diocese. Together, they are bringing the dream of building of ‘St Mary Madeleine secondary School for the Deaf’ to life.

The venture is huge: the specialised secondary school will have capacity for 200 deaf students to fully board. There is a particular focus on boosting employment opportunities and promoting integration of deaf people in eastern Kenya.

As well as the hard manual labour involved with construction, Michelle and the other volunteers have an equally large and important role: working for the Mothers Union to educate the local community, show compassion and promote the inclusion of deaf children. Their message; that disability does not equal inability.

“There’s a real stigma attached to deafness in Kenya,” explains Michelle. “Having a deaf child is often seen as a curse. Deaf children are bullied, abused and in extreme cases even killed; it’s heart-breaking. We’re working closely with the Mbeere Mothers Union in Kenya to try and change that culture. ​​We want to show that we value every child and I really hope we can help to start changing attitudes.”

When Michelle became involved in the project and brought to their attention, Tutor Doctor were quick to embrace the commitment to change lives. Tutor Doctor President, Frank Milner, offered to support Michelle by donating funds and resource to the project.

“At Tutor Doctor, our mission is about improving the lives of children and empowering them through learning. Only 12% of deaf people are educated to secondary school level in Kenya, it’s really shocking. The link up with Project Riandu couldn’t be more significant for us, we’re so proud and passionate about helping these children to have better lives and a brighter future,” said Frank.

“I’d been thinking about volunteering for a while then when I found out about Project Riandu I thought to myself, this is it, this is how I can make even more of a difference,” added Michelle.

Michelle and all Project Riandu volunteers are self-funded. This means that they must pay for and arrange their own flights, accommodation and food for the duration of their trip. This ensures that 100% of fundraising goes directly towards the build. This is categorically not ‘volun-tourism’, it’s a genuine humanitarian effort.

Michelle and the Tutor Doctor team are doing all they can to raise money for the build including sponsored sporting events (Michelle just completed a 10k marathon in London), hosting coffee mornings and making personal donations.

Volunteers visiting the site this August to help with construction are all fundraising and have pledged £20,000 between them. The project needs £98,000 for building materials this summer and are currently well on the way with an amazing £80,000 secured. But that’s still £18,000 to fundraise!