Christine Marie Carlson

Christine Carlson (Gulu Disabled Persons Union): Christine received her BA from The Evergreen State College. She went on to work for Planned Parenthood in Seattle, advocating for reproductive health strategies; co-manage a project on HIV-AIDS with PATH (the Northwest Microbicides Campaign Bill) funded by the Gates Foundation; and worked as an associate producer for Bill Nye’s series “The Eyes of Nye.” Christine was pursuing a Master’s in International Public Administration at the Monterey Institute of International Studies (MIIS) at the time of her fellowship. After her fellowship, Christine wrote: “I was extremely lucky to have such a wonderful group of people to work with. They are highly social and welcomed me eagerly. They tried to put my desk in an outside office, but I insisted on being put in the main office. I often bought sodas and fruit for the whole office, took photos constantly (which they loved) and was always available to lend a hand or an ear.”

Deaf children,no pencils…. “WE WANT FOOTBALLS!”

29 Jun

I got a little bit teary when Mr. Charles Ojok said he was leaving yesterday to go to Kampala to improve Ugandan Sign Language. At present it is an adapted version of American Sign Language and lacks many Ugandan terms. Charles also teaches sign language to deaf and hearing persons at GDPU and has taught many of the local teachers.

In the afternoon of my first day at GDPU I borrowed a bicycle and followed him deep into Acholiland to, Laroo, a village where one of two schools for the deaf is located. Of an estimated 450 in the area it is estimated that only 60 attend school. Ten of the children live at the school.

Charles pulled on one of the girls shirts and signed that she should clean it. It seemed that these young children were left completely by themselves with nothing but a field, some bunk beds and some hollowed out buildings with broken windows. I employed all kinds of “stupid human tricks” to get them laughing and then taught them a version of paddy cake.

Charles and I returned the next day when they were in school. Although they were neatly dressed in uniforms and the board was covered in multiplication tables the lack of pencils and paper, especially for deaf children was disheartening. This lack of materials is compounded by the fact that the children have varying levels of understanding sign language. Some of the children were rendered without any ability to communicate sentences. It was amazing how they made up for it with incredibly demonstrative expressions, coos and gestures.

I was about to leave when the teachers said, “The children have something they want to say to you. “ “Yes, “I said, “What can I do for you?” Gulu is firmly in the grip of World Cup mania…. “We want footballs.”  So simple. So next week I’ll go to the one place in Gulu that sells sports equipment and return to smiling children.

Posted By Christine Marie Carlson

Posted Jun 29th, 2010

1 Comment

  • Christy Gillmore

    July 1, 2010


    Your post makes me think about how I’ve never seen a non-Western culture use sign language. When Louis and i were in Mali, Louis had a deaf neighbor living next to him. He could only communicate through big gestures, lived alone and was pretty isolated from the community. That’s wonderful that Mr. Ojok is improving Ugandan Sign Language.

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