Mom's heart big enough for other children

August 08, 2013|Alicia Notarianni | Making Ends Meet

Is it possible to love someone you’ve never met or spoken with who lives 7,200 miles away?

Even a diehard romantic likely would answer no. Yet that is exactly what I find myself doing.

No, I do not have the hots for a foreign film star. Though that guy from “Mao’s Last Dancer” was strangely captivating with his grit, sinew and skill. But I digress.

In all seriousness, I am speaking of something far more powerful than the superficial allure of a carefully controlled, easy-on-the-eyes image. The love I’m feeling is for a child I’ve never met. I think about her frequently. I am compelled to let her know that she is loved and to enhance her life somehow. I want to help bring her joy in some way.

And the love I am feeling is not just for one child. It is for many. Among them are Mukisa, Mugisha, Walusimbi and Umaru. They are deaf children who live at an orphanage in Kawempe, Uganda, near the capital city of Kampala. I became familiar with them when my friend, Kris, began to explore the possibility of adopting a deaf child.


I am already blessed with a son who is deaf, so my heart has a soft spot for deaf kids. That spot has only grown deeper and wider with compassion as I’ve watched my own child live the ins and outs of being deaf. Of having so much to say, so much to share, but so few people around who “speak” his language.

I’ve watched him be left outside of conversations, instructions, jokes and events because people didn’t know how to include him, and I’ve seen him press through the pain of  being passed over for roles and jobs for which he is more than qualified and capable because he doesn’t hear. This is not a paranoid supposition. Despite progress in philosophy and in laws over the years, some people remain surprisingly blunt when it comes to expressing their views of deafness, or of any disability for that matter.

That said, my son is not defined by his obstacles. Each person faces unique challenges, and one of his is being a deaf guy in a hearing world. I have always trusted that he is deaf for a reason, and despite the hard truths above, he is bright, witty and engaging, and he has enjoyed many successes and touched other people’s lives in his 19 years.

I’m discovering Mukisa, Mugisha, Walusimbi, Umaru and the other roughly 40 kids they live with at Boanerge Deaf Initiative – or BDI — to be charming, affable, funny and so full of possibility too.

But their challenges put those of a deaf child in the U.S. even further into perspective. Most of the kids at the Ugandan orphanage have been abandoned by their families. Their deafness is considered to be a curse of God, and they are largely viewed as not being worth caring for let alone educating. They were taken in by a hearing Ugandan man named Joel, who was compelled to act after his own deaf brother was violently killed.

Kris visited Joel and the kids at BDI several months ago. Through pictures, stories, videos, notes and social media, I feel like I know many of them. Kris is back at BDI now for two weeks with her husband, my deaf son and another young woman.

Though I stayed home this time, my heart is overflowing with love and a longing to meet the kids for myself. And “love,” it is. One that wants to shower with affection, protect and honor kids I’ve not even met, but who have already enriched my life.

Alicia Notarianni is a reporter and feature writer for The Herald-Mail. Her email address is

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