Andrew Foster: The Gallaudet of Africa
Andrew Foster was born in 1925 in Ensley Alabama. When he was 11 years old he contracted spinal meningitis and became deaf. He attended the Alabama school for the colored deaf in Talladega and when he was 16 he went to high school at the Michigan school for the deaf. His family was deeply religious and he found his true calling, to become a missionary. Andrew wanted to become a missionary in Africa but he knew he needed an education so he wrote to Gallaudet college and they not only accepted him they gave him a full scholarship. He knew he wanted to better the lives of deaf people around the world and concentrated on the idea of Africa. Andrew Foster was the first black student to ever have been accepted. He graduated Gallaudet in 1954 and went on to receive two masters degrees one from Michigan State and one from Seattle Pacific University. Andrew wanted to become a missionary but they would not accept him because he was black. Andrew not only had to deal with people not understanding him because he was deaf but he also had to deal with the rampant racism in the United States at that time. Andrew decided not to wait for existing missionary groups to accept him he raise money and started his own missionary church. Andrew traveled for the first time to Africa in the remote country of Liberia in 1957.
The daily lives of deaf people in Africa was even worse than the United States. When he first arrived the African officials told him that deaf people did not exist in Africa. Many people believed that deaf children were cursed and parents would leave them in the wilderness to be eaten by animals. There was no education available for deaf children in Africa and many Africans believed that the deaf were unable to be educated. Africa was a poor country and they did not want to use what little resources they had to teach children many felt would never have a future anyway. Instead of building new schools Andrew worked hard building relationships with schools that were already open and during off times he rented out the school teaching deaf children. In the next 30 years Andrew foster would travel back and forth to Africa hundreds of times. He raised millions of dollars over the years. He opened up a total of 31 schools in 17 countries in Africa. Many have called Andrew foster the Gallaudet of Africa. He also opened churches, camps and teacher training facilities for the deaf. Many of these schools are still open today. In 1970 Gallaudet University honored Andrew with an honorary doctorate in humane letters. In 1987 Andrew was on a small plane traveling between schools in Africa when it crashed in Rwanda. Andrew was 62 years old. The mission he started in Africa is still going strong in his legacy lives on in the tens of thousands of deaf Africans who have him to thank for his lifelong effort.