Through the YEP programme (Youth Education Pack), NRC Côte d’Ivoire is helping about 100 marginalised youth with disabilities in the western region. The majority are deaf or hearing impaired. Elodie and Brahima, both 23, have graduated from the programme, and willingly share their experiences:
“I had to drop out of 5th grade because my parents did not have money to keep me in school. Before I joined the YEP programme, I could not really read and could not sew anything. Being deaf held me back and I was very withdrawn,” Elodie, says, and continues:
“My life got better during the YEP training because I learned a profession, sewing, that I am now getting better and better at. Now, I sew children’s clothing that I sell to be able to provide for myself. In addition, I’m better at reading and writing. Thanks to sign language, which I learned at the YEP centre, I have improved my communication with other people who are deaf or hearing impaired. What I’m most proud of is how people have changed the way they look at me because I’m working. I am viewed fully as a member of society and I have many friends now. My dream is to become a great sewing teacher so that I can support young girls who want to learn the profession.”
Group of hearing impaired participants in a YEP centre in western Côte d’Ivoire.
Similarly, Brahima has always felt that being deaf was a heavy burden.
“Before the YEP project, I used to be a victim of mockery. I made a living repairing used shoes but it was not really what that I wanted to do in life. Thanks to the support through YEP, I was trained in market gardening and I have been working with it since February 2014. It is not at all easy and I still have some difficulties being economically independent, but I am convinced that I will make it in the end since the harvest from the gardening is selling at the local market.”
Elodie and Brahima’s literacy teacher, Toh Jacques, is also deaf, and tells of the challenges facing the deaf and hearing impaired in Côte D’Ivoire:
“The hearing impaired are suffering rejection and stigmatisation. NRC is the only humanitarian organisation in the region that has initiated a project that takes into account the needs of disabled youth. The project is considerably facilitating the social reintegration of hearing impaired youth by teaching them life skills and vocational skills.”
NRC’s Youth Education Pack (YEP) is a one-year programme made up of three main components: literacy/numeracy, life skills and vocational skills training for out-of-school youth. The objective of the programme is to socially reintegrate 2000 vulnerable youth by supporting them in obtaining an income-generating skill. NRC has been running the programme in collaboration with local partner organisations in western Côte d’Ivoire since 2012.