Wednesday, April 17, 2013


Many of you know that I am very interested in Sign Language and have taken two semesters of it at Juniata so far. Well, at the beginning of the semester, I was able ad lucky enough to have the opportunity to volunteer at La Escuela Nueva Vida (The school of new life) for deaf/mute children between the ages two and I believe 15.

The school is conveniently close to my house, only a five to ten minute taxi ride, and I am able to go whenever I want to. Lately I have only been going once a week in the morning until about noon, but I think now that it is getting down to the last few weeks I might go more often.


After being in Honduras and trying to sign with two of the deaf girls there, I knew that not all of the signs that I had learned would be the same in both English and Spanish. However, I did not realize how different it would really be here. The first day there I was trying so hard to communicate with the kids. They were excited that I knew some sign, I could tell, but then when they tried to talk back to me or answer a question, I could not understand what they were saying. Even for me to try and ask when their birthdays are was difficult and resulted to pointing at construction paper signs on the wall with the months written on them.

As the day went on, and we continued to try to communicate, we started to become friends. :) One of the older girls, Anabel, was really patient with me and really wanted to me to understand what she and others in the room were saying. Even after seeing so much sign over the past few years, it still amazes me how quickly they are able to communicate ideas and know exactly what the other is saying.From what I am gathering, I think that a lot of the signs that they are using are interpretive and are ones that they have been using with each other ever since they started school together.

They break the children into two classrooms - the older kids and the younger kids. I like to alternate classes each time I go there, but either way I usually just end up playing ad trying to talk with the kids. My first day with the big kids got a little out of hand. It was the day of their math test and the teacher had told me that she was going to go print out the tests and that she would be back. Since they were being good and they were older, I figured I could go check the time and let my one other friend know when we should be leaving. When I came back to the classroom, there was paint and water all over the floor. I stood there in the doorway with my mouth open and Anabel just started at me and shook her head. The teacher came back two seconds later.

My first day with the younger kids turned into this little wrestling match:

Since I can't exactly yell at them and tell them to break it up, I just let them do their thing. I mean, it seems like they were having fun, right?

The main idea of this school is to try to get them to talk and not rely on the signs so much so most (if not all) of them do have an implant or something of that sort. That first day with the younger kids, something happened that melted my heart and made me fall even  more in love with interacting with the deaf. We were all taking pictures and playing with toys when it happened. The two younger girls were stacking blocks and playing with a small ball. The older girl, who is probably only about 4, rolled the ball to the two year old. When she picked up the ball, she realized that there were little beads inside and began shaking it next to her ear. Her face lit up and I knew that she could hear it. After watching her eyes get real big, she smiled, held the ball up to my ear, and shook it so that I could listen.

I was able to teach the older class multiplication tables the one day and they loved it. The teacher told me to just write them on the board and let them answer them. Pretty soon they were volunteering to come up to the board and were so excited when they would get them right. Then they started having competitions with who could figure it out the fastest, and started helping each other with ones that they didn't know. When it came time for the 9's, I showed them the finger trick where if it is 9x3, for example, you put down your third finger (middle finger on the left hand) and the answer is 27. THEY LOVED IT! I can't even tell you how many problems with 9's I had to write on the board for them.


The teachers at the school are so nice. I often get to see them explaining to the kids how to pronounce a word and it is the coolest thing. Each sound has a different motion, like a sign, that they use to describe it. It's amazing.

I am getting to be really close with these kids and it is going to be sad when I leave them next month. Maybe I'll find myself working with the deaf someday, who knows. What I do know is that I am thankful I have the opportunity to be at La Escuela Nueva Vida.

1 comment:

  1. Love this and YOU Kara!! I am so proud of you,