Helping the silent speak
"Having a severe stammer wasn’t just embarrassing for Busani – it affected his whole life."
Having a severe stammer wasn’t just embarrassing for Busani – it affected his whole life. He had significant self-esteem issues when BMS World Mission worker Lois Ovenden did some speech therapy work with him in Zimbabwe. He was studying theology but would never speak, let alone preach.
Eighteen months on, Lois a got an email from Busani. “I am writing to thank you for the great work that you did in my life,” he wrote. “I have done preaching at class and a lot of people are commenting about the improvement they see in my life.” Thanks to Lois, Busani is able to communicate with people in a way he had not been able to before.
Lois is now helping people to communicate effectively through speech therapy with BMS in Gulu, Uganda. She is starting to build up a list of patients who would not normally have access to speech therapy, as the treatment is not fully recognised by medical professionals in Gulu. One of her patients is Joshua, a two-year-old with Down’s syndrome who Lois is teaching to sign. Without Lois’ expertise, he would not have the chance to connect with his family the way other children can. Thanks to the signing, Joshua can ‘speak’ to his mum, who now attends the sessions with other children. Parents, like Joshua’s mother, who felt isolated because of their child’s disability, now have a community they can confide in, people who understand the challenges and share the triumphs, and through the sessions parents can further bond with their children.
Helping people to communicate, through practices like speech therapy, plays a vital part in securing people’s wellbeing Lois believes.
“If you can’t communicate with your fellow human, there is a huge amount of your humanity that is lost,” she says. “There is something about sharing your thoughts and feelings and needs that if you are unable to do so leaves you isolated. We’ve all had the experience of being misunderstood, but if you are not even misunderstood but not understood at all, it’s a huge barrier.”
Through her work with BMS in Uganda, Lois is helping to overcome the communication barriers her patients face and make them feel more connected to their loved ones.