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Still waters of communicating with signs

Belinda Ochola teaches and does live sign language interpretation on TV.  She sees the practice as a fun and rewarding career.

Barry Silah @obel_barry

Belinda Ochola’s fingers rapidly flip and bend as she uses her hands to explain an anchor’s words on Lolwe TV,  a Kisumu-based station, during prime time news. But it is her passion while doing her craft that attracts more attention.

Ochola was motivated to pursue the field after her cousin fell ill and developed hearing complications  a few years ago. Since then, she dedicated her life to learning and serving the deaf community as a passion.

As a child, she grappled with understanding people with hearing impairments and all she could do was feel a tinge of pity. “I think the hardest part for me was communication and understanding.

“However, when my cousin became hearing impaired, I just took greater interest,” says Belinda, who reveals her cousin’s parents were a bit naive on the situation.

It took a lot of research and consultation to figure out about the whole deaf sector and what was particularly happening in Kenya.

Belinda Ochola teaches and does live sign language interpretation on TV. She sees the practice as a fun and rewarding career.

“Coming from a personal background where one of our loved ones was affected, I felt obliged and pulled to get more involved with the hearing impairment community,” says Belinda, who then enrolled for a Diploma in Special Education.

A calling

The Communications Student at Kenya Institute of Mass Communication, currently works for different organisation as a volunteer.

Ochola often does gigs for various functions, “We have few qualified personnel out there, who can help the deaf, however, the job demands a gentle heart and sacrifice.

“We are talking about dealing with sensitive people who demand love, attention and understanding,” adds the certified sign language interpreter, whose parents have greatly supported her drive.

The alumna of Kenya Institute of Special Education considers herself a servant and absolutely loves engaging with her subjects.

“To me it is a calling and I would not change it for anything. I am a social worker who is out to make a change of percepective and belief,” she says.

To this end, she is treated normally and with a lot of respect given her warmth and charisma towards the group. She says she had made many friends with people with hearing impairment as well as across the divide.

“For me, these are able people, who are blessed differently. They are like the rest of us and need honest compassion,” says Ochola.

At the moment, she does most of her volunteer work with Huduma centre, sporting organisations, courts and government agencies.

    No deaf personnel

By her own admission, she has managed to help hundreds of needy people through investing time and wider networking. “I find greater joy when I am told ‘Thank you’. It is the most rewarding, and so I AM committed to creating impact my own way.”

Her beef, however, is with the lack of human personnel trained in handling the deaf community’s issues in public places, which she terms as regrettable.

“I feel it is a human rights violation. The government and private sector should come up with ways of creating space and opportunities to this community, because they deserve recognition,” she says.

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