Elizabeth Johnson writes:
I moved to Jiroff, The Gambia in December 2013. It was not long before I met Maja Sowe. Her compound was right next to the village water pump. Every time I went to fetch water Maja was there. She always greeted me and asked me some kind of question.
The problem is Maja has been deaf since birth. She and her caretakers have worked out their own ingenious sign language. I, however, struggled with the language barrier.
Maja is an inspiration to me. Her disability does not affect her sunny disposition. She is always around, always smiling, not getting frustrated when I do not understand her mimed questions, doing household chores and watching out for her younger sibilings.
Her positivity in the face of hardship deserves to be rewarded. Last year, I took Maja's caretaker, Maimuna, to see St John's Deaf School. Maimuna was astonished to see that deaf kids can learn to speak. She could not stop smiling thinking of Maja going to school and actually learning.
Last year, we enrolled Maja at St Johns. One year later, she has learned so much and can even write her name. The school has organised a bus that transports the students to and from the school everyday. This bus fee is also above Maja's family means. Working with GambiaRising, a non-profit started by returned Peace Corps volunteers and staff, I am working to raise funds to ensure Maja's education continues. Every child should have the opportunity to got to school.