Half way through the trip, I went to Disney with my Dominican family (who were also in the States for winter vacation! My mom, stepfather, and grandmother all drove down to Tampa the next day to meet my Dominican family, which was so cool. My mom got to meet my Dominican mother! Thank God everyone liked each other! It went extremely well, despite the language barrier.
Soon after I returned, a group of ASL students from Maryland came and taught our students about fossils and dinosaurs. Fossils was a topic I had covered with one of my classes, and I was so proud when some of my students (one in particular) were able to remember what I had taught them, answer questions correctly, and explain the formation of fossils. It was a fun day.
We also took the students on a field trip of the Colonial Zone here in Santo Domingo, where they learned about some of the history of their country's fight for independence. On the field trip, we were stopped by a policeman who offered to pay for our entire group to enter an awesome science museum nearby. The way that God looks after this group of people here is something extremely special. Everyone had a great time and learned a lot. As the science teacher, I was especially happy!
A few weeks later, another group of Americans visited. They conducted hearing tests and fitted eligible people for hearing aids. So many of the students, and even some of the Deaf staff and Deaf men and women from the neighborhood, received free hearing aids. It was a very cool experience, and I even learned how to conduct a hearing test!
A couple of weeks ago, we were informed that the new school was finally completed and the inauguration would be held with many important people present, such as the Minister of Education and the President of the Dominican Republic himself. It was a beautiful event with more than 100 people present. It was covered by the news and articles were published in the papers. The opening of the first government-constructed school for the Deaf in this country has created such a boom in the country and has brought much attention to this once invisible population. I know that this is just the beginning!
The campus is gorgeous and ginormous! It has 10 buildings, 17 classrooms, a library, a computer lab, a cafeteria, multiple offices, a playground for the young children, and a basketball court for the older ones.
Not only that, but the government also gave us a brand new bus (driver, gas, and maintenance included) so that we can pick up more students who have trouble with transportation to and from school.
The staff and students of the school have been in charge of the move from the old school. Those young men and women have worked their butts off! All of these blessings have had us reeling!
In the midst of all of this, Paulina (the director of the school), four other teachers, and I were granted the incredible opportunity to visit the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind for a workshop about strategies for teaching the Deaf. We were received by the president of the school and her family, who treated us like family. We absorbed so much amazing information that our heads might have exploded and got to tour the campus and visit classrooms. The resources and programs that this school has are nothing short of inspiring. We have returned with a renewed excitement and so many ideas to set up and improve our brand new school! (The headphones are so that they can better hear the English-to-Spanish interpreter.)
After the conference, I brought the whole group to visit my hometown. We all stayed with my grandparents, who took wonderful care of us, visited with my mom and stepfather, enjoyed an awesome day at Islands of Adventure, had dinner with some of the team members from camp, visited my church, shopped, and walked some of the La Chua trail where we saw probably 60 alligators! We had a blast!
These past two months have been so busy, and I have only shared the big events here! The Lord has been blessing me, the students, the staff, and the entire Deaf community here in countless ways. We have such an awesome Heavenly Father!!