June 03, 2013

By Daniel DiDonna
The Kaselehlie Press

The Deaf WorldTeach Program is now coming to an end for Spring 2013. The volunteers are just finishing up their five-month stint in Chuuk. The past few months were chock-full of memories that everyone will cherish forever. This was the type of experience everyone grew from, personally and collectively!

Slowly, but surely, the program came together since the opening ceremony celebrating the inception of the Chuuk Deaf Center. The number of registered students rose steadily bringing more diversity in age, knowledge, and skill to the classroom. Also, the classroom itself was transformed as students brought it to life.

The success of the program itself is largely owed to the support of the Deaf students, parents, special education teachers and administration, Ansina Kony, and Paul Hadik. The amount of support that was received from each level was overwhelming and impressive.

The parents really value their children's education, making a huge effort to communicate through visual means, sign language, and continue to educate their kids outside of the classroom environment at home. This is an important aspect to a child's successful education, having supportive parents in and out of school, and constantly exposing their children to language and the world that surrounds them. Some of our students' parents barely uttered one word, instead using their hands to create gestures to share information!

These parents should take pride in their love and commitment to their children that will ensure the students grow into bright and skilled individuals.

The special education teachers were quite a committed staff. They showed up to school everyday, even some days were barricaded by inclement weather, and they still showed up. They made a huge effort in educating the students, helping them learn social cues and behaviors, how to respect each other, and pushing for a collective identity as Deaf people. Gloria Ikea, whom co-taught with the Deaf WorldTeach volunteers, was such a success, proving that Chuuk is developing a local capacity of qualified Deaf Education instructors. Followed by the other special education teachers: Jiweina Elimo, Inca Shotato, Jafflyn Poll, and Rose Elies who gave endless support for the program. The program would not be in place if not for Iras Demo Elementary School supporting the education of Deaf students.

Last, but most important, the students! The center of the universe in the classroom. The students constantly surprised us with what they already knew. Their ability to transform their self-expression means through language and expanding the language into very creative outlets, applications to the world, they really transformed themselves. They grew, learned and changed together with support and self-initiative fires longing for more. We simply helped them dig within themselves, finding the seeds and allowing it to blossom. The seeds were there all along. They just had to realize and find it, that we helped with, and the rest was up to them.

This truly was a collaborative effort from all levels in the community and education system. This shows how successful a program can be when people work hard; contribute their time to something worthwhile, and for the future of the Chuukese deaf community. Daniel and Emma will miss everyone dearly, a piece of their hearts will always remain in Chuuk. Kinisou to each person who contributed to this awesome project!