By Nancy Klos
On our final evening in Jinotega, the students, staff, and volunteers always get together for a farewell pizza party at the Albergue. Typically some of the students entertain us with a couple of dance performances and then the students and staff are introduced.
It struck me this visit how mature our oldest students appear and what a tight knit community they have become, which includes those who reside at the Albergue as well as the deaf youth that reside within the town. As I watched the group interact with each other and with the adults in the room it filled me with much optimism about their preparedness to demand recognition in the mainstream society of Nicaragua. These kids have “taken their place” in the world and can no longer be considered silent.
The team of volunteers this trip were ultimate worker bees. Every corner of the campus was buzzing with activity all week long. You can imagine the wear and tear on the place with 30 plus people on the campus every day. The work week provided fresh coats of paint, a new stove, plenty of mending, and fixing up parts of the yard. Some of the kids lent a helping hand.
It was another wonderful week of sharing ideas, discussing challenges, and providing information. Dr. Laida Restrepo, professor of speech and hearing science at Arizona State University, was a key team member on this trip.
As the needs of our students change, our program evolves and much of our conversations this week involved management of operations and academic strategy. In addition, our students are maturing and are ready for more independence, so it is a constant challenge how to support their need to have choices within a group living situation.
This year we have 2 classes of high school students, one upper elementary class, and 2 levels of lower elementary in the morning at the public schools. The 2 classes in high school each require an interpreter. We are fortunate that the teachers at the elementary school use sign language to directly instruct. In the afternoon there are 4 teachers who help the students with homework and provide academic enrichment and reinforcement at the Albergue.
The wonderful sponsors who help fund the cost of each student provided a care package for each child that contained basic essentials to start the school year, such as, underwear, toiletries, and school supplies. In each gift bag was a personal note of encouragement for the new school year. The students look forward to hearing from their sponsors and love it when a sponsor comes to visit.
It was not all work work work all week long. There was plenty of good food and great fellowship. This year for our excursion we took the big white bus to Selva Negra, a beautiful organic plantation and mountain retreat where I spotted my first Guatusa!
For those who have never been to the Albergue, it’s hard to describe how great the students make you feel. They are a true gift. I hope you get to join us on our next visit, June 20-28, 2015
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