Deaf and living in remote Uganda, Patrick has never had a real conversation with anyone

By Kelli Bender
Updated November 18, 2014 09:15 AM

Imagine living the first 15 years of your life in total silence, never having a real conversation with anyone. This is Patrick Otema’s reality.

Born profoundly deaf in a remote region of Uganda where there were no schools for kids like Patrick, the 15-year-old has never had the opportunity to learn sign language or lip reading. The boy and his father communicate through a series of basic simple gestures, leaving the teen with little to do but work in the field outside or sit alone in his hut.

Raymond Okkelo hopes to free Patrick from the anguish of isolation. Deaf himself, Okkelo is a sign language teacher dedicated to giving the deaf people of Sub-Saharan Africa and their family members the classes they need to communicate.

In this video, viewers see Patrick’s first sign language class. He isn’t alone. Deaf people from the ages of 9 to 80 walk miles to attend Okkelo’s class. The transformation is tangible. You can see Patrick and his classmates open up – and smile – as they finally learn the desperately desired means of communication.

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