We returned on March 25 from a week long visit in Jinotega and brought back with us cherished memories of brilliant smiles and great reports on how well the students are doing.
The new school year began in February and we have enrolled 4 new students bringing us to our full capacity of 25 students. It was a delight to meet the newest children and to see how quickly they have adapted to their new school family and home. And equally a pleasure to see how the “older” students have taken them under their wings.
One can only imagine what these newest residents are understanding about how they have been moved from familiar faces and homes to a place where daily life is created for people who communicate with their hands. And what range of emotions they must experience in missing parents and siblings but also finally being able to connect with others, find ways to express oneself, and get needs met.
We visited with the directors and staff to get updated on all of the Albergue students and we also visited the public elementary and secondary schools that our children attend in the mornings. There are 33 deaf students at Max Senqui School, of which 24 are from the Albergue Mayflower. 1st through 3rd graders are in one classroom, 4th through 6th graders in another. The teachers at Max Senqui are competent signers who teach entirely in Nicaraguan Sign Language. And our students are well supported by the Director of this special education school.
The high school is named Jose Dolores and there are 4 deaf students, including one from the Albergue. When we visited the school in March we learned that the students had been without an interpreter since the start of the school year in February as the former interpreter had been transferred to another school and not replaced. The director and teachers at the high school emphasized how last year with the interpreter, the deaf students were able to remain on par academically with the hearing students, but this year, they were quickly falling behind.
An appointment was immediately arranged, initiated by the Director of the Albergue, Georgina, and we were able to meet with the MINED (Ministry of Education) administrator and apprise of her of the situation. She immediately took action to fill the position and thanks to the supportive partnership of MMO, MINED, our Albergue directors, and the directors of the schools, the deaf students now have full access to education once again. Judith, our high school student, is becoming trilingual – Spanish, NSL, and English!
Speech therapist, Evelyn Delaney, a team member from New Jersey, spent all week training our new full time speech therapist, Marlene, and introducing a new language/literacy program to our teachers, Ana and Jasmina. They were very enthusiastic and Evelyn sees great potential in their skills. They asked jokingly if she could come live at the Albergue. Evelyn has agreed to see if she can arrange to come for several weeks. What a great offering on her part and her family!
Our campus is getting some new artwork thanks to Juan, one of our evening activi activities coordinators. Juan is a gifted painter and he engages the students in art classes and in painting the interior and exterior walls with charming murals. Juan is deaf and a great mentor and role model for our students. We had a tremendous response to our Winter Book Drive and were able to box up over 400 Spanish Language books and purchase large cabinets to establish a library at the Albergue.
The shipping container containing all our library supplies, plus a multitude of other materials and equipment, left Oklahoma City on February 28 and due to a delay in Customs in Managua did not arrive in Jinotega till April 11. We were not able to set up our library on this most recent trip, but have plans to have set it up on our next visit.
We accomplish much on our mission trips and we have great fun. In parting, take a look at some snap shots of the volunteers exploring beautiful Jinotega as well as enjoying time with the students.