YES Programs



Sign Language Workshop in Mali

A group of Malians sit and practice sign language

By Ousseynou Diakité (YES 2019-2020, Mali, placed with AFS-USA in Ballwin, MO)

On Saturday, October 31, the Malian YES Alumni association organized a sign language workshop in collaboration with the National School for the Hearing Impaired. The workshop took place in Bamako, at the National School for the Hearing Impaired. The activity was first planned to be open to the public but, with the COVID-19 pandemic going on, we had to narrow the numbers down to alumni only. There were about 24 participants who attended the event, including 20 YES alumni.

Practicing sign language in a big classroom

We were first inspired to organize this workshop because the Deaf community is often neglected in Mali. We thought that organizing this sign language workshop would be a great way to show interest and connect with Deaf people in the community.  

The workshop was led by a teacher of the National School for the Hearing Impaired and YES alumnus, Gaoussou Diarra (YES 2015-2016, Mali, placed with AYA in Munford, AL), who is Deaf.

Learning sign language in Mali

The workshop started off with the history of sign language and some shocking facts. Did you know that there are only nine schools for Deaf people in Mali? Most Deaf students don’t continue their education after 9th grade because the Malian government does not provide educational opportunities for the Deaf community after middle school.

We also learned basic American Sign Language during the workshop, including the alphabet, numbers, and basic expressions. By the end of the workshop, we all could introduce ourselves using sign language. The real impact of the workshop was that it brought awareness about the challenges that Deaf people face in daily life and what we can do to advocate for these communities and strive for a more inclusive society.