Day Two : Riberalta
After another early start, I managed to get my flight on to Riberalta, which saw me travelling further north in Bolivia. My next stop would be the Arca Maranatha Deaf School.
When I arrived, I was met by the head of the school, Andreas Kolb (who is deaf himself) and his assistant Carol. They were thoughtful in coming to the airport to welcome me because I didn’t realise that car taxis are unheard of in Riberalta. I would have had to balance my suitcase and camera equipment on the back of a motorbike, so I fully appreciated their offer of a lift!
The school was lovely – teaching around 30-40 pupils in the morning classes and running workshops and classes in the evenings for the older students, parents and trainee teachers.
Through the support and generosity of our donors, CBM has helped the school to increase their capacity considerably by paying for the construction of four new classrooms and by paying some of the salaries of the newly recruited members of staff.
Rather excitingly, this year is the first year they’ve been able to send a class of deaf children to the local secondary school where the students can participate in regular classes with other children of their own age. I asked the students whether or not they had been nervous about the move to the other school (where there are hundreds of students in attendance), but they all said that even though they may have been at first, they all really enjoyed being able to sit alongside their friends and neighbours in class.
The inclusion into the experiences and situations that their peers are exposed to has really helped them feel less neglected. Some of the children who come to the deaf school are brought there very late in life because they are literally hidden away behind closed doors.