The need for the Haiti Deaf Academy became clear during our work with a community of deaf adults in Leveque, Haiti, as they relocated to permanent housing after losing their homes in the earthquake of 2010. Most of the adults living in the community are not well educated, are not job ready and are dependent on others for survival. These adults, with whom we will continue to work, have become staff for the school and dorms, deaf mentors and a community of support for the children. The adults will be offered language classes and vocational training. At their request, however, much of our focus is on the next generation.
We opened a children's home in September 2013 for deaf students who required housing while attending school in Leveque. Traditional day schools do not exist for deaf children in Haiti so beds were immediately filled, providing access to education that would otherwise not exist for these students. We have filled to a capacity of 54 students and have at least that many on the waiting list. Expansion plans are underway!
Deaf adults staff the dorms and provide Christ based parenting and role modeling. Sign Language is the primary means of communication, expanding the world for many of these children who joined us with no means of communicating with their families or friends. We are finding deaf children living in remote areas or small communities who have no language and no hope for education. Many have families who have ostracized them and make no attempt to communicate with them. Unfortunately, as with some disabled children in developing countries, these deaf children are vulnerable to abuse and neglect. We aim to change the lives of these children.
Our sign language program will include interpreter training and a pro-active approach to integrating the Deaf with the hearing world in which they live. For example, we are working on a project to standardize Haitian sign language and facilitate access to public and social services offered in Haiti.
Most of the students living in our dorms are not orphans and will not be treated as such. The family will remain intact, with sign language programs available for parents and siblings, and a social worker to help ensure that the family remains active in the child’s life.
We are training deaf men to be pastors so that the children receive a biblical education direct from deaf role models.
By educating these vulnerable children in Haiti, giving them the skills they need to communicate along with academic and vocational training and spiritual development, they will be empowered and can realize their dreams of self-reliance.