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Deaf Teen Communicates for the First Time

Deaf teen from Uganda learns to communicate through sign language for the first time

Fifteen years ago, Patrick Otema was born deaf in a remote area of Uganda, where he lives to this day. There are no schools near his village for the deaf and no sign language courses to be seen for many miles. In fact, as a result of the lack of resources around him, young Patrick has never had a true conversation with another human being. To watch him on-screen, where he's profiled in a recent documentary by Channel 4, the sadness in his face as others talk around him is nothing short of heartbreaking.

"If I spoke to him as I am speaking now, he doesn't understand," says Patrick's dad on-camera. "But I can do like this," he continues, gesturing to the camera, "and point at him to get the hoe so that he goes to the garden."

Even the journalist profiling Patrick notes how rude it feels to carry on conversations about Patrick, right in front of Patrick, as he sits there unable to participate.

But luckily, a sign language teacher named Raymond Okkelo recently embarked on a mission to change all that. Born deaf himself, Okkelo's goal was to bring Patrick out of the silence and loneliness he's known his whole life, and open him up to a whole new world in the process.

"In the past I was also like him," says Okkelo. "I couldn't use sign language, the only thing I could do was hide in fear."

But as the clip below goes on to show, Okkelo believes anyone has the power to communicate, and the right to feel like they are not alone in this world.

Watch as Patrick, and others from nearby villages, walk miles to attend Okkelo's class, and learn to communicate with each other and their loved ones for the very first time.

Photo via YouTube

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