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RSNF has changed my life and family, Sylvia says

Sylvia, who is 18 years old, is a successful hairdresser. She graduated recently from the Rwenzori Special Needs Foundation’s (RSNF) vocational training school and now works in a salon run by RSNF.

Sylvia with Daniel Baguma, who runs RSNF, and Accomplish's Treasurer, Chris Acton
Sylvia (centre) with Daniel Baguma, who runs RSNF (left) and Accomplish's Treasurer, Chris Acton (right)

Sylvia was born deaf and dumb. She only completed the first two years of primary school; the teachers and other children were not able to communicate with her because no-one knew sign language, and there were no specialist schools for deaf people in her community.

Sylvia lives in Nyankwanzi B village in Kabarole District in Western Uganda. She comes from a family of nine and is the third oldest child. Two of her siblings have started their own families, three attend school, and the others do odd jobs in the village to earn money. The family lives in a three-bedroom semi-permanent house (made of reeds and mud). They have an acre of land on which they plant beans, potatoes, cassava and bananas. Sylvia’s father quarries stones to earn a living and her mother is a farm labourer. Sylvia worked on farms and in banana plantations before becoming a hairdresser. In the evenings, Sylvia and her mother sell their home-grown vegetables at a stall in front of their house.

Sylvia’s mother first heard about the Rwenzori Special Needs Foundation’s (RSNF) vocational school from a former student within their community, Kajobe Reachel, who graduated in hairdressing in 2019. She saw this as a golden opportunity for her daughter, so Sylvia enrolled on the hairdressing course. “I have never seen such a blessing; I thank God for RSNF,” Sylvia’s mother said. “I believe my child will be able to take care of herself and her family after she has acquired the hairdressing skill.”

A quick learner, Sylvia mastered the art of hairdressing within a short time and practiced by styling the other students’ hair. It was hard for Sylvia to communicate with her classmates initially, but she began to pick up sign language from the teachers (all of whom are trained in sign language) and her friends started to understand her signs. Sylvia enjoyed living at the RSNF vocational training centre and having three meals a day (at home, her family could sometimes only afford one meal a day.)

Then halfway through Sylvia’s course, the COVID-19 pandemic struck and the vocational centre was closed. Sylvia returned to her village where she began to ply her new trade by plaiting people’s hair. She went from house to house to style people’s hair and customers also sought her out at her home. The money she earned from hairdressing helped to sustain her family during this difficult time.

After lockdown restrictions lifted, Sylvia was able to complete her studies and join RSNF’s new salon for graduates. Sylvia has brought two goats from the money she earns in the salon and is now saving up to buy her father a bicycle.

“RSNF has changed my life and family,” Sylvia said. “I am very grateful to the organization for touching lives of people with disabilities.”


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