Teaching deaf children & adults, plus supporting staff and parents
teaching deaf children in a small but well-organised school in Puerto Vallarta. Currently it has around 20 children and 10 adults that attend classes for a few hours each day. The children attend normal school in the afternoons. The school is small but purpose built, with three rooms set in a spacious plot. There are excellent, all-Mexican staff who communicate in sign language. The form of sign language used is Mexican Sign Language “lengua de señas mexicana” or LSM. It is not related to Spanish, British or American sign language but it seems that a knowledge of other sign language is immensely helpful in learning LSM.
The school provides an education and support for people with hearing difficulties. They are taught sign language and a range of school subjects as the children will often lag behind where they are expected to be due to the difficulties of learning with a hearing impairment. The older ones are assisted with job applications. The school is a place where camaraderie and mutual support are provided and volunteers can provide the added support and interest that helps the children and adults push themselves that little further.
Although the hours are relatively short, the work is demanding and volunteers usually arrive home in the early afternoon exhausted. For those with more stamina this project combines with our other projects working with children in Puerto Vallarta.
The students benefit from one on one support but this can’t be provided without volunteers. The students attend other schools or are in employment so only attend for a few hours each day and numbers can vary greatly. Volunteers assist with a wide range of educational activities including playing, supervising activities, teaching English, basic arts and crafts and helping with games. Students are also prepared for studying in mainstream schools and in life skills to facilitate access to the job market. These activities are sometimes undertaken as whole class activities but volunteers are often given groups of just two or three children or young adults to supervise.
This is an important project and has proved to be particularly rewarding to patient, dedicated volunteers. As with many volunteer projects the enthusiasm and interests of the volunteers themselves will be the deciding factor of how much they become involved in the multiple activities of the school.
There are ‘cultural’ challenges and a lack of desire to help and support people with disabilities in Mexico. The indifference that local authorities show towards supporting this type of project make it difficult to progress. Volunteers can help cut through all of this and their energy and enthusiasm bring much needed life and additional capacity to the project, which in turn provides a higher level of support to students and an increased self-esteem.
This project may not be for everyone, but it certainly was for me. If you are open to new experiences and love living in and experiencing a different cultural lifestyle, this project is right for you, Career break, Mexico