How it Began
Soon after Project Gambia began, in working with the Deaf, we had attracted the atttention of some of NHS Lanarkshire's top officials. Chief among these was Mr. Arunachalam Iyer (Consultant ENT Surgeon - picture to the right) and his wife, Dr. Priya Iyer (General Practitioner with NHS Lanarkshire).
As Project Gambia began to work with Mr. Iyer and NHS Lanarkshire, we began to make interventions which have proved truly life-changing for many children at St. John's School for the Deaf, and indeed, the neighbouring, hearing-impaired community.
NHS Lanarkshire began by donating used Hearing Aids to Project Gambia, which we were able to supply to St. John's School for the Deaf. By working with the Audiology Team in The Gambia, we were able to investigate the hearing capabilities of every pupil - and fit Hearing Aids to the children who could benefit from them. Truly, this has been life-changing for many children in The Gambia - who have been able to hear as a result.
Soon, we began to receive more Hearing Aids than was needed for St. John's, and, as a result, the Audiology Department at St. John's was transformed into the centre for Hearing Tests and Deafness in The Gambia. Indeed, it has become so popular that citizens of other West African countries have visited the school in hopes of a Hearing Test and being fitted with a Hearing Aid.
Alieu was a Pupil at St. John's School for the Deaf who was born from a rare disability causing him to be born without any external ears - and therefore completely Deaf. Project Gambia initially noticed Alieu on one of our first visits to the School - as it was an extremely warm day and there was a young boy standing in the corner of the playground with his hood up. After asking the Depute-Head Teacher why this was, she told us that it was because he was born without ears and was scared to let people see.
We were able to, through our Partnership with the NHS, secure a Visa for Alieu to come to Scotland in 2019 for Medical Treatment. As a result, Alieu was able to hear for the first time in his life on his 14th Birthday.
Mr. Iyer visits The Gambia
On our April 2019 Aid Mission, we were delighted to be joined by Mr. Arun Iyer and Dr. Priya Iyer. As part of their visit, they were able to assess the Hearing capabilities of the children at St. John's School for the Deaf, and assess the general health of the 1,000+ pupils in the 3 schools that we support.
Part of their visit also involved supplying the Audiology Team in The Gambia with much-needed equipment, as well as providing training on the skills needed to use this equipment.
They were also able to visit various Hospitals and Clinics in The Gambia, in order to assess their needs - in terms of both equipment and skills.
We have been able to deliver much-needed Medical Equipment to Hospitals and Clinics in The Gambia, through our fantastic Partners in the NHS. This has included materials such as Defibrilators and Suction Units.
The most recent of these Shipments was in September of 2020, when a large Shipment of Medical Supplies was delivered to The Gambia in order to help their Healthcare Systems cope with the ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic.
To find out more about the Medical and First-Aid Support we have given to The Gambia, please click the link below.
Alieu was a Pupil at St. John's who was born from a rare disability causing him to be born without any external ears - and therefore completely Deaf. We first noticed Alieu when he was 8 - and from the moment we met him, we knew that we had to do something to help.
Initially, Paul Lafferty queried Alieu's condition with Mr. Iyer, in hope that something could be done to help him. Because he was born without ears, it was clear that a classic Hearing Aid would be of little use.
After several tests, it was concluded that Alieu was in need of a Bone-Anchored Hearing System (BAHS) in order to be able to hear. To do this, he would need to come to a developed country, such as Scotland. Therefore, that is exactly what we did.
Alieu came to Scotland from January 2019 until March 2019. On the 14th March, 2019, he heard properly for the first time in his entire life.
Alieu's 14th Birthday
As Alieu turned 14 years old, he was given the gift of hearing - arguably the best Birthday present ever. If that wasn't enough, he also had 2 Birthday Parties - one in the Diocese of Paisley and one in the Diocese of Motherwell! Between these, more than 500 people came to wish Alieu a Happy Birthday - so many people that he needed 6 Birthday cakes! Being the first Birthday he ever celebrated, it was one that he wouldn't soon forget.
Here is a short video of Alieu being sung Happy Birthday in St. Joseph's Parish in Clarkston (Diocese of Paisley), along with Bishop John Keenan, Fr. Stephen Baillie, and the Pupils of the St. Ninian's School Cluster.
Alieu's visit was covered extensively by Local, National and International News Outlets - such as STV News and the Scottish Catholic Observer!
STV News were granted exclusive permission to film the moment Alieu heard for the first time - on the 14th of March, 2019.
In a fantastic video package, Alieu is emotional as he is able to hear sounds he has never heard before - and hear the voices of his parents for the first time, who are many many miles away....
Where is Alieu now?
Because Alieu has returned home to The Gambia with the gift of hearing, he has begun to develop speech. This has developed to the extent that there is no longer a need for him to be at St. John's School for the Deaf.
He has now transferred to a Mainstream School in The Gambia, and keeps in touch regularly with us. The donations he received during his time in Scotland will pay for the rest of his Education.