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Adventures in Rwandan Deaf community

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How volunteering helps to change attitudes. 

In African culture, parents believe that having a deaf child is like a curse. Parents may abuse and even try to kill their deaf children. That's why the directors at Nyabihu Demonstration School for the Deaf have given us three topics they want us to work on with the children. They want us to teach them about American Deaf culture, show them that being Deaf is not a bad thing, and work on building their self-esteem. Nyabihu Demonstration School for the Deaf also tries to educate parents about the deaf community.

Last Monday, we went to Nyabihu and played volleyball, "Cat and Pig," and "Duck, Duck, Goose" with the kids. Then we got to observe a Sign Language class and learn Rwandan Sign Language (RSL).

One little girl really stood out to me. She is Deaf, autistic, non-verbal and does not register when someone is signing to her. Despite that, she ran to Reagan and me, and clung to our sides. I plan on making her a weighted stuffed animal, which is supposed to help with anxiety and sensory processing issues.

At Fair Children Youth Foundation (FCYF) Deaf Children Center, we are playing different games and activities. Last Sunday was my favourite day with them. We all played "Tic-Tac-Toe," traced each other with chalk and then had a dance party. It was the first time I got to see their personalities.

Our next project is to paint the Deaf Culture flag on a wall of the school. We'll continue to learn new games and activities before the kids go back home for a month of summer vacation.

The past few weeks have been truly mind-blowing and life changing. 

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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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