When I was two years old I went from mild to moderate deafness to profoundly deaf.
My eldest Riley is now 12, but in September 2017, when he was ten years old I went to his parents’ evening. I came out in tears after learning he was struggling with his peers in school. I tried to find a local club for Riley to join to meet other deaf children his age, to find there was nothing around.
When I was Riley’s age I was part of a group called Deaf.F, where I met other deaf children. I remember the fun we had, and how confident I felt being amongst others like myself. The club helped shape me into who I am today. I knew I needed to do the same for Riley and other deaf children out there.
So just three weeks later, Saturday Kids Zone for Deaf Children (SKZ) was born.
A gap in the market
I hired a local hall in Portsmouth, fundraised for the games tables, shared the opening night on social media and hoped for the best. I expected only a few children to turn up, and was pleasantly surprised to find we had 22 show up.
We’ve gone from strength to strength from day one. We have reached out to families as far as 25 miles away, who travel monthly to take part in our club. And we now have more than 50 families on our books, many who are devoted regulars.
We have watched the children grow from shy, quiet little things, into confident, happy and loud children.
We see the bonds between all the children blossom, as well as the parents. At SKZ, we are one big family. The families seek advice and support from each other, and the deaf children’s siblings learn that their brother or sister is not alone.
We have a huge mixture of hard of hearing, mild, moderate, severe and profound losses. Hearing aids, Baha implants, cochlea implants or awaiting fitting. Speech, British Sign Language (BSL) or lip reading. We have deaf adult role models which the children look up to, and the parents find comfort in knowing their children will grow up to do anything they want in life.
At the deaf club, the children play games together, take part in activities to encourage communication and friendships, and learn BSL.
We run many events throughout the year to cater for their needs. Many children haven’t been to the cinema or the theatre with their families due to a lack of captions. They don’t take part in activities due to feeling like they the only deaf child, or they cannot follow what is happening around them. This is where we provide support in numbers, interpreters, captioned showings and much more.
When I started this deaf club, my goal was to find a few local friends for my son who were deaf as well.
Now, seeing just how needed we are, how the children’s lives have changed so much through SKZ, my goal is to own my own building and keep spreading the word to let new families know they are not alone.
We are here, we are a community who care, and we will continue to be here for as long as we possibly can.
I want to let everyone who is reading this article know that if you have a vision, don’t be scared and think too much about it, just go out there and do it.
I had the vision, and three weeks later I just did it. If I can do it starting from nothing, you can too.