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Why I'm Volunteering at a Deaf School in Rwanda

Children playing in Rwanda. pixabay.com CC0

I was 12 when I lost my hearing. Now, I'm using my experience to help others. 

The lie “your hearing will come back” is one of the only things I truly remember about the two weeks I spent in the hospital after contracting bacterial meningitis, which resulted in me going deaf overnight.

Who would have thought that six years later, I would be packing for a three-month trip to Rwanda to volunteer at a Deaf school? Definitely not me.

I was 12 when I contracted the disease, and it destroyed my hearing. I remember not thinking it was a big deal. I did not think it would affect or change my life very much, but I was so wrong. Looking back, I should have thought about how this huge adjustment would impact my future.

I am still confused on what I want to do with my life. I often find myself asking: “If I didn’t get sick, would I still be interested in the same things I am interested in now? What would I be doing different right now?”

I often find myself asking: “If I didn’t get sick, what would I be doing different right now?”

Those are some of the questions that remain unanswered. But, one thing that I know would not change is my passion for helping people and my desire to travel the world.

Growing up, I always looked up to my aunt and uncle for what they do. They are missionaries in Rwanda, Africa. When they came to the States on their biennial trips, I would beg them to take me back with them. I rambled on and on about how I wanted to help the people over there, how I would make friends with the children and how I would sing songs with them at church. It only took 18 years of begging to finally get the opportunity to do what I have always dreamed of.

For years, I struggled to find a good mix of my passion for helping people and the fact that I am now deaf. In Rwanda, Africa, I will be volunteering at a deaf school called Fair Children Youth Foundation (FCYF) Deaf Children Center and will visit another school called Nyabihu Demonstration School for the Deaf. I am super excited to not only learn about Rwandan culture, but also learn specifically about Rwandan Deaf culture.

I cannot really explain how I am feeling right now. The time I have until I leave is dwindling down but my emotions are building up. What am I to expect? Can I make it three whole months in a different country? On a different continent?

There are so many questions and thoughts racing through my mind, but, in the mix of it all, there is one dominant thought: I am really doing this. I am going to get on a plane and fly to Africa, and it is going to be a shock, but I am going to love it.

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Published in Volunteer Abroad Blogs
Lillian Berggoetz

Lillian is a recent high school graduate. She has been a part of Indiana’s Deaf community for four years. She is volunteering in Rwanda and volunteering at a local Deaf school in Ruhengeri for three months.

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