Priyanka (right) and her best friend Asiya (left) on their way to the interview for the Silence training program.
I always wanted to tell the story of Priyanka, a beautiful deaf girl we met a few years back. We met Priyanka in 2008, she was about 15 years old and living in a girls home a couple hours outside of Kolkata. Priyanka is and was a beautiful girl inside and out. She was always smiling and you just wanted to hug her to pieces! You knew she had so much to say, but just could not. We had so much to say, but she could not hear us. During our visits Alfonso did a wonderful job creating his own sign language, and spelling into her hands. She was born deaf and could not speak and on top of that her parents died when she was very young.
When we started Girl2B and launched our empowerment program we were told she was no longer living in the girls home she grew up in. Unfortunately, she was living under a bridge with her family in the center of the city. No one could tell us where she was.
area where Priyanka lived
After a full day of interrogating people and running around the city, we finally found her! It was the most hectic day, immediately upon our arrival into India, in the sweltering heat. Our reunion was wonderful and tearful, but we were concerned for her health and well being. It was not easy to bring her into our program at first. As a matter of fact it took a full year to get her out of the terrible abusive living conditions she was trapped in and into our program. We asked one of our high school students (who also grew up with her) to interview her and tell us her story. She does not tell much. But for now this is what she is comfortable with.
My name is Priyanka. I am twenty years old. I am a person without the gift of hearing and speaking. I can’t express my views through speech, but I communicate through actions and some sounds. Some of my friends especially Ashiya, who has been with me throughout childhood, can understand me very well. They are the ones through whom I can communicate with the outside world.
There are four members in my family. My younger brother, his wife, their daughter and myself. My brother is a taxi driver who leaves home at six in the morning to go to work while his wife, daughter and I stay back. As I was unable to communicate with people so it was hard for me to do a job, because of this my sister-in-law would shout at me everyday but I never able to tell her how difficult it was for me. There is tough competition in India even for normal people which I saw through their daily struggles and hard work. And for me it was even more complicated.
I thought the best way to escape this ignorance and these scoldings was by getting married. Samir, a truck driver and a big, huge man used to follow me often. One day he suddenly told me that he likes me. Without thinking of right and wrong and due to my sister-in-laws pressure, I accepted his proposal. I hoped that I would be at peace finally, rescued from my sister-in-law’s beatings, abuse and ill-treatment.
One day, I suddenly saw Ashiya and my other friends coming towards my house. They wanted to take me with them. But I refused thinking that they would take me to the girls home I used to live in, the hostel from where I had run away. I didn’t want to go back there anymore. After some days Ashiya came to take me again but I still refused. At her third request, I agreed to go to with her and be a part of Girl2B with her. This is where I met some of my old friends from childhood. But I could not bare life there either so I ran away again. When I came back home, I felt lonely. So I went back by myself and saw the others struggling with studies and work. So, why was I running away?
see video below of Priyanka where she lived.
It was difficult for me in the beginning to adjust with them as well as the world, but slowly I involved myself in the struggle and started life in the competitive world. I wanted to challenge myself so that, like others, one day even I can shine like a star in the sky and show the world what I am capable of doing. At Girl2B I started following everyone around me and understood that it was not as difficult to challenge life as I thought.
Now I go to a school called ‘Silent’ where many other students like me come. They are all trying to challenge themselves and do something in life. I go to school everyday and have made many new friends. In the beginning I would need to go with my closest friend Ashiya, but after sometime I started going alone and now I am always regular for classes. I started classes with drawing, now I realize I am capable of doing everything like others. I see normal people do the same things that I do like shopping, going out with friends, studying etc. Christine and Alfonso have given me a life in which I could find the real Priyanka. They have given my life back to me and have guided me like parents. Through G2B I got the chance to stand on my feet and it means a lot for my success in future.
My first award
Thank you for all your support and help due to which I am here today. One day I will be shining like a star for you all and Girl2B. Thank you very much…..
Thank you Priyanka for sharing with us
Today we fully support Priyanka with a place to live, food, clothing, and medical attention. She receives a small stipend of 700 rupees per month from Silence while she is learning and perfecting her trade. To learn more about http://girl2b.org
and our latest projects, please visit us here.
I am so happy for Priyanka. I thought she was with the other older gils in GIRL2B from the very beginning. She is a fantastic girl and funny. I remember how some girls in Kalitala communicated with her and told me they used the sign language to communicate at school during exams so that the teachers wouldn’t notice nothing!!!!! I learned the sign alphabet from Priyanka. We laughed a lot during these “lessons”. She is wonderful. I wish her the best of the world. Thankou for sharing her story. Good luck Priyanka, you will manage it! Big hugs from Canary Islands. Florence
I love her story! I am so impressed with all that she has accomplished. Beth Callahan http://www.bethcallahan.com