A Grassroots International Effort
Tanzania International Deaf Academy (TIDA) is rooted in the conviction of Sia Godson, a young Tanzanian woman who believes that deaf children have the same capabilities as any child for learning and should be afforded equal opportunities. For many years, she has voluntarily provided room and board to many deaf children, ages five-to-fourteen, from isolated rural regions so they can attend a primary school in Arusha, Tanzania for very limited education. She has single-handedly financed this endeavor through raising chickens and selling their eggs.
When school is out for long holidays and the summer months, Sia and the children make the long journey back to rural villages to each child’s home so they can spend time with their families. Sia then gives the parents updates on their child’s progress. Sia has gained the respect and cooperation from the village elders in many regions who have seen the positive results of children coming back from school. These elders have helped identify more families with deaf children. Sia receives calls from parents living in many regions asking her to either help locate a school with an opening or asking her to take their deaf child so she or he will get an education. Families entrust Sia with their children as a result of her convincing belief in education for deaf people. Her willingness to make personal sacrifices for their children has led them to see their deaf children as special in terms of ‘untapped potential’ rather than as special in terms of ‘special needs’.
In 2010, Lisa Snyder (see About Us) traveled with her husband and friends to Tanzania. Prior to going on safari with Bright African Safaris, she was taken by the company owner, Msangi Charema, and Sia Godson to a regional school to deliver donated educational materials to deaf children in attendance there. Moved by the status of deaf children in the region and by Sia’s voluntary dedication to meeting their needs, Lisa returned to her home in San Diego, California and networked with professionals serving the deaf community in San Diego. Cindi Cassady and Shannon Engelhart, herself Deaf, (see photo to the left) immediately felt moved by the circumstances surrounding deaf children in Tanzania. Their subsequent educational visits to Tanzania and Cindi’s developing partnership with Sia and other deaf education leaders throughout East Africa and the United States laid the groundwork for the vision to advance education for deaf children in northern Tanzania and surrounding regions. Thus TIDA was born.
TIDA has grassroots support. Although many families live in very remote mountain villages, they have been willing to travel considerable distances to meet with us to be interviewed and to share their vision for TIDA and for how their deaf children can be better educated.