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September 24, 2003

Nickson Kakiri of Kenya Receives First World Deaf Leadership Scholars Fund

From: Gallaudet - Sept 24, 2003

For Immediate Release

September 24, 2003

Contact: Mike Kaika, Director of Media Relations

Phone: 202-651-5050


Nickson Kakiri of Kenya Receives First World Deaf Leadership Scholars Fund

Washington, DC—Nickson Ochieng Kakiri, a junior at Gallaudet, is the first recipient of the World Deaf Leadership Scholars Fund which will cover his entire college expenses including the cost of internships related to achieving a degree. This fund was established in 1997 through a generous $3 million gift from the Nippon Foundation of Tokyo, Japan.

Kakiri is majoring in government with a focus on international development.

Born and raised in Kenya, Kakiri, one of four children in his family, became deaf at the age of two. “I grew up very isolated from people due to my deafness,” said Kakiri. “I thought I was the only deaf person in the world and experienced a lot of frustration and anger.”

In an interview with Kakiri, he said his parents did not place a high value on education and wanted him to work on the farm and tend the cows. But he wanted to go to school and his parents relented, and enrolled him in a mainstream school. “This was another frustrating experience for me,” said Kakiri, “because the teachers interpreted my deafness as being rude and would punish me for not talking, and my classmates would mistreat me as well.”

Kakiri soon started to build a relationship with books to develop his English and writing skills. He mentioned several books which have had an impact on his life. “The Concubine,” by Elechi Amadi, a Nigerian; “Les Miserables,” by Victor Hugo; and “The Power of Positive Thinking,” by Norman Vincent Peale.

During his early teen years, his primary school headmaster knew about a school for deaf children and persuaded Kakiri’s parents to enroll him at Kuja High School for the Deaf. “This was the most rewarding and promising experience in my young life at that time,” he said. “Being able to communicate with teachers and classmates empowered me to grow and strive harder to be a successful deaf person,” he added.

After graduating from high school in 1995 and facing discrimination in the employment field, Kakiri joined the South Nyanza Association of the Deaf, a branch of Kenya National Deaf Association, and served as Secretary General from 1995 until 2001 when he enrolled at Gallaudet. “I wanted to be an advocate for deaf people and help break down barriers in my country and in other countries as well,” said Kakiri. He has made significant achievements in his six years as Secretary General. He worked as a trainer of volunteer teachers of deaf children with the Japanese International Cooperation Agency in Kenya. He established the East African Deaf Connection (now Global Deaf Connection), an international volunteer non-profit organization based in Minnesota that sponsors deaf Kenyans at teacher training colleges. After working with this organization, he founded his own tour company called Deaf Safaris, Ltd., to provide opportunities for deaf and hard of hearing tourists to visit Kenya.

In 1999, Kakiri attend the World Federation of the Deaf conference in Australia and met many deaf leaders from around the world who encouraged him to enroll at Gallaudet. When he arrived back in Kenya, Kakiri applied for admission to Gallaudet and sought financial aid. He was accepted to Gallaudet and was awarded the Edward Miner Gallaudet Scholarship which covered some of his tuition expenses. When he learned about the World Deaf Leadership Scholars Fund, he applied and based on his resume, he was awarded the scholarship. “I was so happy when I found out I was going to be a recipient of the World Deaf Leadership Scholars Fund,” said Kakiri. “This is a tremendous benefit for me and I hope for others who want to come to Gallaudet in the future. My dream is to set up a program at a university in Kenya for deaf and hard of hearing people to prepare them to come to Gallaudet to pursue their education and develop leadership skills.”

In addition to financial assistance, each WDL Scholar will have a mentor—a member of the Gallaudet community who will serve as important support for the scholar. Preference will be given to students who have already worked within the deaf community in their own country. Scholars will also be required to indicate a commitment toward returning home upon graduation and working toward the betterment of their community.

For more information about the World Deaf Leadership Scholars Fund contact Provost Jane Fernandes at

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