Judy Kihumba is a sign language interpreter and an advocate of maternal mental health and wellness of deaf nursing mums.
She is also the founder of Talking Hands, Listening Eyes on PPD (THLEP), which focuses on walking the motherhood journey with deaf mums and breaking the silence on postpartum depression (PPD).
A wife and mother of two girls, Ms Kihumba shares her career path with Sunday Nation.
“I partially grew up in Tetu, Nyeri then moved to Karima in Othaya and later Nairobi. Growing up wasn’t easy but I overcame various challenges. As a young girl, my grandma says I was confident and courageous.
My passion for sign language started in High School at Rev. Muhoro School for the Deaf. One may ask how a hearing girl ended up in a school for the deaf. After my O level, I was to join a provincial high school but that never happened due to a lack of school fees. I had to postpone school for two years and worked as a househelp to raise fees for my high school education. I could only afford the fee to join the school for the deaf, which is close to my home in Nyeri. My initial days were challenging as I had no prior knowledge of sign language.
As I continued interacting with the deaf students, my passion for sign language began to grow and it has been a continuous journey since then.
I joined the University of Nairobi sign language research centre where I sharpened my skills.
I later joined St Paul’s University where I did a degree in development communication and PR. I later did a Diploma in Trauma Counselling. Immediately after high school, I got a job with United Disability Empowerment in Kenya (UDEK). Here, I got a lot of exposure in the disability world. In 2010, I was privileged to be among the committee of experts who toured the country to create awareness on the new constitution and constant interaction with the deaf communities shaped my career journey. Organisations like IEBC contacted me to interpret their civic education training materials.
Through this, I have been working with various media houses to interpret their news bulletins. I have also done a lot of commercial adverts in sign language with the latest being on demystifying the stigma around Covid-19 patients. I’m still growing and looking to keep soaring high in the deaf world.
It gives me satisfaction to see the deaf connect with the word of God and understand it because many don’t interact with the Bible at the church level due to communication barriers.
One thing I would tell a younger Judy is, don’t wait passively. Life doesn’t wait for you. Seize opportunities that come your way. Decide what you want to do with your life and determine the things you need to do to get there. Start doing, now. Even if you take small steps, they will bring you closer to your goals, wherever they may be.
My advice to the youth is never be too proud to admit that you’ve made a mistake, to ask for help, to apologise, or to thank others. Even in data-driven, results-oriented high-tech professions, people matter. Cultivate good relationships with a wide variety of people. It’s a myth that you can do it all on your own.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Someone has to have your back. Someone who can see through your smiling eyes and say you are not okay.”