Sunday, August 06, 2006

A week after Adjuah gave birth, 18 of us squeezed into the truck to go visit her and the baby. We took along some bread, a ½ sac of rice, and some pure water (it was a tight squeeze). She looked good, the baby looked good – everything seemed fine. Except - - - when Jerrydine (also known as Pinky – one of the school’s teachers) asked if Adjuah and the baby had been to the clinic for a check-up and also to start vaccinations, Adjuah’s mother said “no” and that people in villages don’t believe in vaccinations and don’t do that. Also, Adjuah called a couple of us aside and told us that she didn’t like it there – that they talked about her and weren't nice to her.
Pinky is standing on the far right

So, what could we do? How much could we push it? How far could we go, knowing that we need to rely on the family to care for and help Adjuah at this time? We discussed the importance of vaccinations and encouraged it, but we can’t force it. We talked about patience and understanding, but can’t control that.

The next night, around 8:00 p.m., I received a call from Pinky. Adjuah had just shown up at Pinky’s house, she had been beaten, she was upset, and she was talking of her baby having been “chunked” down onto the ground and blood coming from the baby’s nose. Pinky was able to call the family and 2 of them were going to come help Adjuah to go back home. While talking with Pinky we decided it would be much better for us to take Adjuah back, sit and talk with the family, and assess the situation.

Adjuah had never been to school until about 2 ½ years ago. She was around 17 or 18 when she began attending school (the school for the deaf where I am at). Prior to that (and since) it seems as though her family has never made any effort to communicate with her. A lot of times deaf people in villages develop a kind of “home-made” signing system – not “official” sign language, but practical and communicative at a basic level. It doesn’t seem this ever happened effectively for Adjuah and her family. And this has led to many misunderstandings, frustration, confusion, anger – you name it – for both sides.

This was the situation on the morning she ran away. Her mother decided to share the bread we had brought with the others in the family, reasoning that they had all been awake the entire night that Adjuah was giving birth, so they should benefit or have some compensation for that time. Adjuah didn’t understand what was going on and didn’t agree to it – she knew the bread was intended for her and her health. She became upset and angry. The family didn’t like her anger and couldn’t understand it and became upset and angry. Adjuah took the baby and was leaving. One of her brother’s went after her and started to beat her with a stick. Adjuah roughly put the baby down and chased after the brother – then left – then finally showed up at Pinky’s house that night.

It’s hard. Adjuah needs to stay with the baby. She needs supervision and assistance. But the environment (her family’s) where she can and should get this is not at all supportive or understanding of her and her hearing problem. When someone is with Adjuah who just sits and talks with her, looks her in the eyes – whether verbally talking or signing – she can’t hear and understand the verbal communication and doesn’t necessarily understand all the signs – but she focuses, she calms down. And she understands the important part – that someone is trying to communicate with her, someone is talking to her and treating her like a human being, that someone is showing her respect. Her understanding of those feelings and attitudes of love and concern being shown is clear from the look in her eyes and from the calm that comes over her.

Pinky was very good in talking with Adjuah’s family and with Adjuah – encouraging both sides to be calm, understanding, and patient. She tried to help the family understand Adjuah’s feelings of frustration and tried to advise the family on how to help minimize those reactions from Adjuah by how they behave and interact with her. She also advised Adjuah to be patient, for the baby’s sake (the baby had a cut on its head, but seemed fine otherwise), with her family when they do those things. And, of course, how wrong it was to beat Adjuah was discussed. I think Pinky did well – she showed the family she understood how hard it was (Pinky has a couple of our other deaf students living with her) but she also let them know how wrong some of what they were doing was.

A couple of days after we took Adjuah back to her family’s, another missionary I work with, Johanna, who’s not involved with the school yet knows some of the students and has become close to Adjuah, went to visit her. Johanna was able to be a little more forceful with the family and got them to agree to allow Adjuah and the baby to go to the clinic for a check up and vaccinations.

It’s hard for Adjuah to be around people who can’t/won’t communicate with her. But, she’s agreed to stay for at least 3 months so they can help her out with the baby during that time. After those 3 months, we’ll see what comes next.


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