Leonel (left) is the president of the "Asociacion De Desarrollo de Sordos" Thelmy is the chief interpreter. They lead an adult deaf education class on Saturdays.
They often have to scrape up money for bus fare since many of the deaf are isolated in rural villages. Everyone have a great time when they get together. After all, they probably don't have anybody to talk to in their villages.
Part of their outreach is to find the deaf in the countryside because they are often discarded and abused. One was found living under a house.
On another occasion, they showed me a video on their phone of someone trying to talk/sign to a homeless deaf man, but it appears that he had never learned any language and had never been approached in a compassionate and communicative way in his working memory.
The Deaf in this association often express how lucky they are and how important education is for them. They never forget those who haven't had this chance and are ever reminded of what life is like without being treated with dignity. That's where their strength comes from. They have a community like no other.
I have been graciously accepted by the deaf community here in Xela. They describe me as someone who just kind of dropped out of nowhere. I didn't know Guatemala sign language so I caused some confusion. At first, they didn't understand that I can hear.
We exchange big hugs every time we meet and say goodbye. Greetings are beautifully exchanged by everyone in Guatemala, but with the deaf, the hug is a bit longer, a bit warmer.
The message is, "I don't know when I'll see you next. I'll think of you. You must take good care of yourself."
The PoP program for primary students will start with three Ixil speaking schools and three K'iche speaking schools. The program is for Spanish literacy, but taking into account the students' mother tongues, we have prepared the texts in Spanish-K'iche and Spanish-Ixil.
We have also prepared Phonic Chants in the mother tongues as well as in Spanish. The sound systems are different, but there is crossover in the way sounds are transcribed. The consistency in letter-sound correlation makes it possible to familiarize students with decoding text in their own language and then hopefully transitioning to Spanish.
It has been a challenge for me to produce materials in three languages that I don't know, but the PoP team has great expertise and has risen to the challenge.
How many of our kids have lost parents or relatives during the civil war? (1960 to 1996) The indigenous Mayan populations were targets of genocide.
I'm showing my Spanish vocabulary list to a young Ixil man in Chajul. He spots the term, "Ixil triangle" which I had seen in history books. It refers to the predominantly Mayan region demarcated by three important towns.
He tells me that it is an offensive word and that it was coined during the period of genocide. He scratches the word out with a ballpoint pen, eventually vigorous enough to rip through the paper.
I know words personally that I would like to scratch out of history. I get it.
We needed a group of kids to pilot the program (momosign and Phonic Chants) so PoP arranged a classroom in the Mayan mountain town of Chaqul. The kids loved learning and we loved them. What fun when children get center stage.
We tested videos and projectors and they worked well. Videos are neutral as opposed to some teachers with their evil eyes. We took videos (Ariana in the back) of the kids focusing on the videos. No squirmy behavior during the viewing.
Apparently 30% of these kids fail school. We want to change that.