The road is rough and winding, and at times it feels as if it folds in on itself as it snakes around vine-covered trees and deep valleys. But at the end of that road is Eden, a little smiling Jamaican paradise. There’s something beautiful about the quiet joy of children who are deaf. There’s something even more wonderful about their laughter. When they laugh, they are loud and bold and beautiful.
“Howdy mi people! Ow nuh doo dis morning?”
Mary greets us with a smile and a hug. She has worked at Jamaica School for the Deaf for years. She loves the children, loves the ministry that’s being done. And she has dreams of even more.
The Jamaica School for the Deaf has been tucked away on 11 acres on a remote mountainside for 16 years. The founder, Miss Sophie, started the school years ago in her home, and through the generosity of people with a passion to care, was able to purchase the mountain land. The school is now home to 45 children ranging in age from 3 to 20. The children live life here in the hills – they attend class, eat every meal, and sleep in dormitories. The staff lives here too. Some will visit family during holidays, but few students have a real home to return to once they graduate.
Of the 45, only three are supported financially by their families. The other 42 are blessed with sponsorships from Mission Discovery’s “Hold the Children” program. Sponsorship provides everything for the students – food, clothing, shelter, an education, healthcare, and more. Mission Discovery teams have also built more than 95% of the classrooms in this place that survives completely on donations.
Mary shares one of her dreams. “I pray for parents to take responsibility for their children. Most of these children don’t have a home to return to because the parents don’t know how to communicate to someone who speaks a different language. They push their deaf children aside to care for others.”
The children at the school are bright and hungry to learn. They learn sign language, develop writing skills, and even learn lip reading. But there is currently little opportunity for them once they graduate. Universities in the United States provide accommodations for the hearing-impaired, but visas are extremely difficult to obtain. And there are no universities in Jamaica that can care for the students. Mary has another dream. “I dream that this place would one day become the first university for the deaf in the West Indies.” She wants every child to be given an opportunity to be successful, to help Jamaica grow and change.
Until that day, Mary’s heart has been lifted by work being done a few hundred yards away. A church is being built for the deaf, and transitional housing is being built as well. “Our children will have a place to worship God that speaks their language. And they will have a place to live as they develop life skills, learn a trade, and continue to grow in strength.” She laughs with joy as she shows us the land. Loud and bold and beautiful, just like her children.
Eden is growing, and her children will grow with it. That is something to laugh loudly and boldly and beautifully about.
If you are interested in learning more about Hold the Children and Mission Discovery, visit their site. And sign up for the 2013 Jamaica Women’s Mission Trip!