The School for the Deaf on Ometepe Island

Yesterday, I visited the school for the deaf in San José del Sur on Ometepe Island to see if they would be interested in participating in my mobile lending library project. Helping Hands with Hearts for Christ (H3C), was founded by Mike and Joan Vilasi three years ago. While they are in the states, Gael and Rosemary manage the school.

I  interviewed the gracious host, Gael, and asked about the history of the school.
IMG_3193I had a difficult time finding the school because it was tucked into a small cove on the beach with a lush walking trail leading to the school from the main road. “The next time you get lost,” Gael said, “just ask for Quincho Baraletta.” “This used to be an orphanage for girls, but when Volcano Concepcion erupted three years ago, the orphanages abandoned the island for the safety of the mainland.” This made sense to me because Nicaraguans  either use landmarks that disappeared years ago, or refer to a place by a previous name.

My blog friend, Tamara, shows off the beautiful flower- lined lane at the school.

My blog friend, Tamara, shows off the beautiful flowery lane at the school.

H3C new banner hanging above the entryway.

H3C new banner hanging above the entryway.

There are 37 deaf people living on Ometepe Island. Twelve children are school aged and attend H3C. A few of the children attend schools for the deaf on the mainland. Before the school opened, most of these children received no services and did not attend public school. Now, thanks to the generosity of The North Point Community Church in Maine, USA, they receive donations to run the school.

“Kindness, a language deaf people can hear and blind see. “- Mark Twain


The school has two full-time teachers and an interpreter. The nicest surprise was that one of the teachers is my neighbor in La Paloma. Who knew?


“Signs are to eyes what words are to ears.” ~ Ken Glickman

The teachers at the H3C school.

Nicaragua has a unique sign language developed by the deaf children themselves. The video below explains how the Nicaraguan Sign Language began. I am returning to the school next week to deliver my lending library books. It’s awesome to be able to share my love of reading with this school.

How can you help? Visit Helping Hands with Hearts for Christ

Other resources:
1. Deaf Children in Nicaragua Teach Scientists About Language
2. The History of Nicaraguan Sign Language
3. Mayflower Medical Outreach in Nicaragua
4. The Deaf People of Nicaragua Electronic survey report


12 thoughts on “The School for the Deaf on Ometepe Island

  1. Hello, my name is Naphtali Garcia. Both of my parents are from Nicaragua, I currently live in Utah and I’m doing a feature story on sign language. I heard about this school through my aunt who has taught me American Sign Language and I was hoping to interview someone who works at the school or has volunteered there. If someone could please get back to me asap, it would be greatly appreciated. I speak English and Spanish.

    • Hi Naphtali,
      I am so sorry to tell you that the school closed several years ago. It was operated by an NGO and I think they lost their funding. I have no idea what happened to the children who attended the school. So sad. It was a wonderful program and served many children on Ometepe.

  2. Hello!
    I am a journalism student at the University of Nebraska going on a three week photojournalism trip to Managua in a week. I stumbled upon this page and was hoping you could tell me more about Managua, specifically the school for the deaf.

    Thank you!
    Erika Stewart-Finkenstaedt

  3. How wonderful, Debbie, that you will be able to add this group to your lending library. How fulfilling. What an amazing story, from the video, of these kids inventing their own language.No telling what they are capable of…they are so smart.

I'd love to read your ideas and thoughts below....

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.