If you haven’t read my last Blog, ‘One thing leads to another … Part 1’, this one may not make much sense!
Before I went to visit Patrick, I looked on the internet and found that there had been an updated film made – Patrick Speaks – 10 weeks on.
So I watched that and was excited to see that Patrick was able to sign some simple sentences and communicate with other people. I was hoping that I would be able to have a short conversation with him in sign language.
I went on one boda (Ugandan moto) and Agnes from P4C (Passion for Community) went on another. Agnes is married to David, the Director of P4C. She wanted to meet Patrick too, as she had only seen the BBC4 clip the day before. Patrick might be well known in the UK, but he is virtually unknown in his own country.
We first had to stop at the petrol station in Patongo to fill up the bodas. We then set off along a main track would will eventually lead to Gulu, a large town I had stopped at on the MAF plane. We travelled about 45 minutes, past small settlements on the dusty road, past goats and cows and shrub land and banana palms.
The land is flat as far as you can see. Occasionally a car passed us – and we had to stop to wait for the dust to settle before we could continue. I had put on quite old clothes! We also stopped for me to take a picture of the memorial erected to the 28 people who were murdered in this town during the troubles.
I wont tell you what happened to them, – if you are interested you can look on the internet.
We stopped at a small town and met up with Richard, on his boda, who then led us from the road, down a variety of windy and narrowing tracks, for another 20 minutes or so deep into the bush, to the family home of Patrick.
As we arrived at the cluster of five traditional, round, mud huts, Patrick’s father got up eagerly to greet us. Richard had visited earlier in the day to make sure that Patrick would be around, as he is sometime out in the bush watching the goats. There is no other way of communicating with the family, other than by visiting – no phone, no post ….. and we had not wanted to turn up unannounced, or to find that Patrick was not there.
Patrick’s father was very pleased to see us, and introduced me to one of his wives, the mother of Patrick. He has two wives, and eight children he told me, though I counted at least 9 children, so maybe they were neighbours. The family are very poor, none of the children could speak any English, so I dont think they go to school.
Then Patrick came slowly out of one of the huts. He did not look at us. His father made him shake our hands, but he still did not look at us.
He knows Richard quite well now, but had never met either Agnes or me before – and I was white! His experience of white people is extremely limited. His experience of anything outside of the few mud huts and surrounding bush is very limited. We stood around and talked, though Agnes and I sat on the only two chairs available, and Patrick just stood there, looking away. Anyone who has worked with the Deaf knows only too well, that if they don’t want to communicate, they just look away, and there isn’t much you can do about it!
I realised that my idea of a conversation with him was rather too ambitious, and that I would be lucky to even get some eye contact. I had asked the father if it would be ok to take some photographs and he agreed. In fact he was very keen to have his photo taken. He tried to force Patrick to have a photo taken with me … but I said ‘No’, as I didn’t want to force him to do anything he didn’t want to do. Also, I wasn’t sure I wanted a, ‘Me with Patrick’ photo, it didn’t seem right somehow!
Patrick made these bricks in the morning. They are for him to build his own hut on the family
Richard showed us these bricks which Patrick had made in the morning. They are for him to build his own hut on the family land.
So while the others were talking – in their language which I didn’t understand, I began to walk around the site, taking the odd photo here and there and went up to some of the other children who were sitting beside one of the mud huts. I was hoping that he was watching me, but didn’t look at him. The children were beautiful, but very poor.
The smallest one had sores on her mouth and wrist with flies trying to get at them, and I called Agnes over to look. She said the child was malnourished as well, which she could tell from the colour of her skin and her stature. She spoke to the older children and told me later that they did not have money to take her for medicines, so were using traditional herbal mixtures to bathe the sores with. They did not seem to be working to me!
I could feel that Patrick was looking at us, and as Agnes talked to the children and they smiled at me and touched me, I was hoping that Patrick would see that we were ok, even though we were strangers.
Back with the group, Richard told us that someone in England has offered to sponsor Patrick’s place at a school for Deaf children in Kampala, and that he would be going in February; a direct result of the BBC4 Documentary, I am sure. While this is great news, he will need a lot of support initially to manage this change. I hope that he gets it. However, in the clip from the Documentary, ‘Patrick Speaks — 10 week on’, he does sign that he wants to teach the Deaf in the future, so maybe this move to Kampala will mean that he will be able to fulfil that ambition now.
We stayed about half an hour with the family, and when it was time to leave, his father made him shake hands with us again. This time, he took a fleeting glance at me, and there was the trace of a smile around his lips. I was satisfied!
What a privilege.