This article first published in the Signature Inspire Magazine – Spring 2015
Signature catches up with Sam Evans, the 2013 Big Brother winner and charity campaigner. On 13 June 2013, Sam Evans made history when he walked into the Big Brother house to became the first deaf contestant of the popular show. A mere 68 days later and he walked out as the first deaf winner of Big Brother. Sam was born with 70-80% hearing loss, and so choosing to live in a house with a group of 14 other people, for 24 hours a day might seem like a strange choice. But Sam isn’t daunted by little things like that. He spoke to us about growing up with a hearing loss, and how he’s planning to help others.
How did you find it growing up as a child with a hearing loss? Did you find that you got much support from your school to help you? I found it difficult, especially with fitting in at school and meeting new friends. I really wanted to be part of the group. Luckily for me, I had a deaf friend also who was in my classes, which helped a lot. It gave me that extra confidence whenever I felt low. The school provided me with a 1 to 1 assistant for each class, which helped especially when I missed what the teacher was explaining.
Were you encouraged to learn to sign from being young? Yes, but where I’m from there is no one to sign with so I didn’t get enough daily practice to keep it going. When I move to London with more deaf friends, I’m looking forward to committing properly to learning. You became the first deaf contestant to enter Big Brother and eventually won series 14. Did you find it difficult to bond with the other housemates? Definitely! Especially the first five weeks where there were so many housemates talking over each other. As well as getting used to their way of speech and accents. Luckily I had a friend in the house who made a lot of time for me and had plenty of one to one conversations with me which helped me a lot and regained my confidence. Towards the end it got easier as the number of housemates decreased and I understood them better.
During your time in the house you tried to teach some of the other housemates to fingerspell their names. Do you think it is important that both hearing and deaf children are encouraged to learn sign language at school? I did, some were very interested! Personally, I think all deaf children should be encouraged to learn sign language.
Do you think that you would have found it easier to get involved in group discussions in the house if those you were speaking with had some basic signing skills or had been taught some deaf awareness? Like I mentioned earlier, a housemate (Callum) was mostly aware about my disability and he often explained again what was going on. That’s what I needed. He made sure he was loud and clear, but he didn’t use much fingerspelling. You are currently in Malawi working with the Sound Seekers project to help deaf children in the developing World. Have you enjoyed being involved with such a worthwhile cause? Yes. It is an amazing experience for me, meeting deaf children out here and learning about their background and how much of a difference it is out there compared to here. It was a real eye opener and it was a rewarding experience for me to raise awareness with Sound Seekers about deafness and the poor and lack of services they have out there. Sound Seekers have done a fantastic job in raising enough funds to build a new audiology clinic out in Blantyre.
Are you hoping to get involved with more charities? I am involved with Action on Hearing Loss, National Children’s Deaf Society and SoundSeekers and love to help as much as I can. If other deaf charities were to approach me in need of help, I would be happy to help. I have recently launched a deaf dating website, where there is an option to donate to Action on Hearing Loss. Which I hope will have plenty of results of deaf singles meeting and finding their ‘soul mate’ as I understand how difficult it is for a deaf person to get in the dating game, especially when it comes to finding someone. Finally, what are your main goals and what do you hope to achieve over the next few years? I would love to be a documentary presenter; I have a couple of ideas. But that’s more of a dream than reality. In reality I would love to become an audiologist in the next few years, as well as some TV work on the side.