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

 

The Luxury of a Library


“What a school thinks about its library is a measure of what it feels about education.” ― Harold Howe

I have great memories of our public and school libraries in the states. The smells of ink, musty paper, and glue conjure up nostalgic memories of sticking my nose in a book and virtually traveling to distant places through the miracle of words in print. Yet, I can’t explain the feeling I get when entering a library to any of our local islanders, simply because they have never experienced a library..the smells…the hushed whispers…snuggling in a bean bag chair… curling up with a good book. Those concepts are alien. They have no understanding of reading for pleasure because it is not a cultural pastime.

This morning, Ron and I delivered 100 books to a new-to-me school. Follow us on our trip, because we were pleasantly surprised at what we discovered.

On my walk to the bus stop, I was enthralled with the brilliant display of orange flowers on the malinche tree. The locals comically refer to the malinche tree as the matrimonial tree, because the vibrant flowers appear first, then they quickly fall off and the tree becomes a tangle of vines.
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I met Ron at the bus stop near the new airport. Soon, I’ll have to figure out a way to transport my books more efficiently. Ron straps them on our motorcycle, and I follow him on the bus.
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Two trabajadores were filling in a drainage ditch near the airport. “Take our photo,” they shouted.
IMG_2845“When will the new airport open for business?” I asked. “Mañana,” they replied in unison. Alrighty then, I thought, maybe in six more months.
IMG_2847The bus never came, so I flagged down a moto taxi…my favorite form of transportation on the island.
IMG_2849When we entered the school, the director told us to deliver my books to…THE LIBRARY!!! The first school I’ve seen on the island that has the luxury of a library.
Santiago, who attended this school from preschool through high school helped me translate to the LIBRARIAN. Santiago doesn’t speak any English, but he understands my Spanglish well. When the librarian had a question, she would direct the question to Santiago, and he would repeat it a little louder and a little slower to me in Spanish. Then, I would respond to Santiago, and he would fix all my verb errors. We work well together.
IMG_2851I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the librarian lived in La Paloma and I knew her son. We bonded instantly. She showed me around the library. It was decorated with lots of posters and cut-out hearts for Mother’s Day, which is celebrated on May 30th. Although the library lacks children’s books, which the kids can read for pleasure, it is well stocked with teacher’s materials and classroom textbooks. I have high hopes for this school because the school thinks highly of its library…a measure of what it feels about education.
IMG_2852We toured a first grade classroom. Aren’t they adorable? I offered to return to read to this class and do a fun book activity with them.
IMG_2854Then on to visit their outdoor classrooms. A perfect setting for a hot morning!
IMG_2855Bikes were haphazardly scattered…and what is this??? Looks like the teacher needs to keep an eye on the kid holding a desk over his head.
IMG_2856We left with a sense of community and a warm fuzzy feeling for the school that has the luxury of a library. Now, where did we park the motorcycle among the sea of bikes?
IMG_2857Thanks for the memories, Esquipulas Los Angeles School. There’s nothing like the smell of a library. I think I’ll look for some bean bags for the library. The kids would love them.
IMG_2859Many thanks to all the wonderful readers and network of librarians and teachers who have donated books to my mobile lending library. I can assure you, they are in loving hands. It is because of your love of reading that this is possible. I’m spreading the love one hundred books at a time throughout the elementary schools on the island.