This is Mariama and she is one of the students participating in our Learn to Ride program at the Educaid Secondary School in Port Loko. Mariama is deaf and mute and her only means of communication are writing and gestures. American Sign Language is not known (or maybe simply not used) in Sierra Leone and Mariama’s frustration with not being understood is quickly evident upon meeting her. But she refuses to let that stop her from doing well in school and she’s not letting it stop her from learning how to ride a bicycle.
She has found maintaining her balance as she pedals challenging but, through pantomime, both the trainers and other girls are able to give her pointers and encouragement. Her focus as she rides is unparalleled and even when we ask her if she wants to take a short break from pedaling out in the hot sun, she immediately shakes her head “no” and gets back to work. When she was able to push off for the first time today by herself today, her smile said it all – the hard work is paying off.