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Sign Language for Deaf Children in Guatemala

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At LWB, we believe that every child, no matter what their abilities are, deserves to have access to education, understanding, and community. To work towards this goal in Guatemala, we hope to empower and include children who are deaf by beginning a sign language program.

Circle of children and adults in a gazebo

In rural Guatemala, resources for special needs education are scarce, and children who are deaf can live a difficult life. Being unable to learn sign language to effectively communicate limits kids’ participation in school and their community and prevents them from reaching their highest potential.

We’re dreaming big and hoping to raise $15,000 during this week’s Sign Language campaign to support two critical positions: 1) Community Education and Outreach Coordinator and 2) Sign Language Teacher.

Community Education and Outreach Coordinator: Maria

Meet Maria! This inspiring woman learned sign language to communicate with her nephew Pedro, who is deaf. Maria has devoted her life to learning sign language and ensuring Pedro’s inclusion in, and successful completion of, school in his community.

Woman in Guatemala using sign language

Working directly with teachers, administrators, and officials, Maria will bring students who are deaf into local classrooms, promoting inclusion while ensuring they receive the support and understanding they deserve.

Sign Language Teacher: Pedro

Pedro is Maria’s nephew. Born with hearing loss himself, Pedro will bring his personal experience and expertise to early learners at the ADISA Center. Not only will he offer specialized instruction but also hope and inspiration to our students and their families.

Guatemalan man wearing a dark blue shirt

All of these photos were taken during a pilot day that we organized to evaluate the possibilities of this new sign language program. After watching how successfully the day unfolded, we know this project will change so many lives for the better!

A group of children learning sign language

An Introduction to Sign Language for Families

During this pilot day, parents and children gathered for introductory sign language classes. Maria worked with parents, teaching them basic signs such as the days of the week and reminding them how important it is to practice. She stressed the importance of practicing not just at home but when families are out and about with their children.

Woman teaching sign language to parents

Parents may worry that an unpleasant stigma may be attached to their children due to their special needs. Maria acknowledged this concern but stressed the importance of instilling confidence in kids so they can grow up as an accepted part of their community. Letting their lights shine for all to see is vital.

Man teaching sign language to a group of children sitting on the floor

Meanwhile, Pedro worked with the children who have hearing loss. Like Maria, Pedro taught the days of the week as well as the alphabet and the names of animals. Just like any other child, these kids are fascinated by chickens, dogs, cats — you name it! — and enthusiastically learned the signs for these animals.

Spotlight on Two Children Who Are Deaf

Nine-year-old Felipe is in second grade and attends a regular village school. He has a hearing aid that allows him to hear just a little bit in one ear. At his school, he is the only student who is hard of hearing, and there is no interpreter at his school.

Two boys using sign language

At this point, Felipe knows how to sign his numbers from 1 to 10, plus a few words. Felipe’s mother says that school has been difficult for her son, and she would like him to learn more sign language. She would also love for teachers and fellow students to learn some sign language so that Felipe can communicate with them more easily. Wouldn’t that be amazing?

Little Andry is just four years old, and he has also been identified as a child who could greatly benefit from sign language classes. Like the other children at our gathering, Andry is deaf, and this program will be a tremendous help to him as he continues preschool classes at his local village school.

Little boy sitting pin the ground learning sign language

Andry’s parents were worried that he is not yet able to speak and were excited to bring him to the gathering with other deaf individuals. Andry is a loving, kind and empathetic child who likes to share toys with his friends. Despite his lack of speaking skills, Maria and Pedro found that he is a very smart little fellow who really enjoyed all the lessons and activities. We look forward to the prospect of following this beautiful boy’s progress.

A man points to a sign language chart in Guatemala while teaching children

In addition to participating in the sign language classes, approximately 20 children enjoyed this day in a public park, participating in group and individual activities in which they played with hula hoops, Legos and puzzles. Felipe, Andry, and the rest of the children all had a wonderful day!

Boy and girl play with orange hula hoops

Impact of Sign Language on Children who are Deaf

Our goal is to have Maria as our Community Education and Outreach Coordinator work alongside the staff at 15 schools. This will ensure the inclusion of children with hearing loss and give them access to education during the first year of this program.

Guatemalan woman and man teaching sign language

The addition of Pedro as our sign language teacher will allow 15 children to receive sign language instruction. Pedro will also support the therapists working with children at the ADISA Center by teaching them basic sign language and how to incorporate it into their therapy sessions.

We Need Your Help

Will you please join us in this campaign to empower children through learning sign language? Your contribution will not only support the staffing of these two essential positions but also aid in advanced training and outreach efforts that will benefit many children in 2024 and in years to come.

Two Guatemalan girls watching from outside a room

Together, we can ensure a brighter future for these children and their families, filled with hope, opportunity, and inclusion.

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