My name is Ally. I was born in 1985. When I was five, I got ill and when I recovered I couldn’t hear very well, this got worse until I couldn’t hear at all. After lots of thinking about what to do with me, my parents sent me away to Iringa School for the Deaf. It was great to learn with other deaf people and I was able to learn sign language at the school and talk with my friends. When I finished, I wanted to go to Secondary School. My parents said that I should go and live near my sister in Moshi, very far from home. She was teaching at a Muslim school but my parents thought that I couldn’t learn Arabic, so instead I went to the local technical school. The only way I could pay the fees was through the support of the Anglican Diocese of Ruaha in Iringa.
At first I hated life there, the food was bad and no-one thought I could do much because I was deaf. I used to cry a lot at night as I felt really isolated. What helped was being invited to play football one day with the senior boys. Everyone was amazed when they saw me play so well and here I made friends with someone from two years above who helped to look after me. On Sundays, I found there was a Lutheran church in town that had a really good sign-language translator, so I attended this regularly. Once I had completed form four (GCSE level) and I was waiting for my exam results, I returned home to Iringa. I found out that my Mum was very sick and she needed money to pay for hospital bills. I heard that Neema Crafts had opened in my town and it helped people like me, so I went and took some part-time work there. I gave everything I earned to my parents so that Mum could get better and I was so pleased when she finally recovered. When I received my exam results they were not very good, so I asked if I could continue to work at the Neema Cafe. The director agreed and now I have been here over 7 years. Here I have learnt to cook many different things and meet many people from around the world, I am the Kitchen Manager and head of my department.
Neema has helped so many deaf people, you don't see any begging on the streets of Iringa anymore because Neema has employed them. Neema and the church have helped me so much. It was the church which paid for my education and now Neema employs me. Although my family are Muslim, I decided to get baptised during a Neema Crafts weekend retreat. I’m thankful to my boss, the Neema Crafts chaplain and my friends who agreed with my decision, but most of all my father who allowed me to follow my faith. Now my name is not Ally but Allen and I thank God for all he has done for me.