Being deaf isn’t really an issue for me. I was born with it, so what I’ve never had, I’ve never missed. For instance, I come to work on a bicycle every day, which takes about half an hour, and I don’t worry about not being able to hear the traffic because I’m always looking around me and I can feel the vibrations of cars anyway.
I’m very lucky really. I come from a family where we’ve always supported each other and I’ve always felt I can do most things other people can do, despite my disability. I’m quite an independent and confident person now. Money was never too much of an issue when I was growing up, because my brothers, sisters, parents and I all shared our earnings together. We have a close family and if there was ever a problem, we’d help each other out. There came a problem when my father died though and I was just about to start secondary school – my sister tried to help me out with the fees but she couldn’t manage it for long. My mother, who sells food, just managed to scrape enough together for me to continue, but times were hard. These days I’m just supporting my mother as all my brothers and sisters are married and have their own families.
When I finished school, I studied carpentry at college and then made a job for myself as a photographer in the town, as I couldn’t find a job. It was alright, working on my own, although the money could be a bit unreliable. I heard through some friends about Neema in 2003, the first year it started. At first I wasn’t convinced. I thought I was fine with what I was doing and I didn’t want to make the change. I wasn’t sure if I trusted this new venture and it was quite a challenge for me to agree. But after thinking about it I eventually decided I would join because I thought the opportunities could be greater.
Now I’m not worried about it at all. It’s lived up to what I’d hoped for and I feel I’m a successful person. I’ve been able to meet and talk with other deaf people, receive a monthly income and comfortably buy food and pay rent. I started in the paper workshop, making cards and books, but now I have been moved to the position of workshop manager. I supervise all the departments and make sure orders are sent off on time. I like having the different skills I’ve learned here and I think the variety of different departments at Neema works well. I’d just like to stay working here and save up so I can build a house for the future and this year I am going to marry my girlfriend who also works at Neema!