Working with the deaf community in Musoma


On Monday we spent the day in Musoma visiting Bri Brubaker and Melanie Hertzler. The morning started with picking up Alicia Hofer at the Bweri bus stand who came from Kiabakari to join Anneliese and Kelsey on our visit. We drove the short 10 minute drive to Musoma town to observe Bri teaching at the Musoma Primary School.  Each morning Bri teaches a group of deaf students at the primary school, working with them on learning sign and writing English. Bri has really risen to the occasion, working with Tanzanian sign, Swahili, and English! (Tanzanian sign is quite different from ASL). As an ASL student at Goshen, Bri is the perfect fit for working in Musoma, which has a proportionally large deaf population.  Three days a week, Bri also works with a group of deaf students at another school, Musoma Technical School.  At 4:00 p.m. on M, W, F she meets for an hour or so helping students improve their communication skills.  Bri’s supervisor, Fatuma, said that she is doing very well!

Melanie is working at Lake Victoria Disability Center (LVDC), which seeks to provide life-skill training for students with disabilities who live in Musoma and nearby towns.  LDVC trains students (some of whom are deaf) in welding, print-making, sewing. They also help students in their language skills and seek to prepare them for the job-market.  LVDC is growing and the organization is in the midst of moving to new facilities on the outskirts of town. Melanie gave us a tour of the new complex which was quite impressive. Melanie has been working with the students on various crafts (drawing, origami, etc.), assisting with projects and helping LVDC transition to the new facility. Since Melanie is also an ASL student, she is quickly learning Tanzanian sign and is able to help the volunteers and other teachers communicate with the students.

We treated the students to lunch at Tembo Beach Hotel, which is directly on Lake Victoria. Over a lazy lunch of chicken curry, we shared stories, relaxed and contemplated how fast service is flying by! In the afternoon we visited Bri’s home, and were warmly welcomed by Baba Juma Makame and Mama Makame, who live on the edge of town in a very peaceful, quiet compound. Isaac enjoyed chasing roosters, while we tried to coerce baby Elizabeth to let us hold her!

Our next stop was a visit to Melanie’s home, where we arrived to tea, fresh avocado/pineapple juice, and boiled eggs kindly provided by Mama Masaigana, Melanie’s host mother. We toured her shamba (farm) and were introduced to her cows, turkeys, chickens, and friendly dog named Bonge. Melanie’s mother is a retired government administrator and lives with Mama Elizabeth, who is the mother to baby Elizabeth (yes another Elizabeth who did let us hold her!). Mama Masaigana made us feel at home and the afternoon went by quickly! We are so grateful for the generosity extended by these families to our students!

We returned to the bus stand to help Alicia get a daladala to her home and dropped the rest of the students at their homes in Musoma.  It was another amazing day – we returned to our homes reflecting on the gift it has been to live and explore life here in Tanzania.

– Ryan for the team