We sometimes find deaf kids in rather strange ways! A few weeks ago, Liti, our cook in the main hostel, went with her husband to a nearby village to deliver a pig. While waiting for her husband, Liti visited with the family and discovered that one of their children was deaf. She immediately told them about Gospel School for the Deaf, and they were amazed. They had no idea that there was a school for their son anywhere in Fiji----and here it was, just a few miles away from their village.
The village was set on a high hill, with a lovely view of the sea. As we followed the path through the village, we saw a number of pigs sleeping in a sheltered wood and tin structure, just across from the family home. The extended family, and a few children, not yet school age, were seated in a circle on the floor as we entered the home. Joseph, age 6, and the fourth of seven children, sat on his dad’s lap. We learned that he had become deaf as a baby, from Meningitis. Grandma told us that he loved to help out around the house, and especially liked making pancakes. Joseph was quite shy at first, but also curious. When I took his picture with my iPhone, he was immediately interested, and warmed up quickly. He wanted to see his photo. I taught him a few signs, which he immediately imitated, catching on quickly to this new hand language. His parents were happy to enroll him in school, and filled out the application form on the spot. The family, with Liti, posed for a picture in front of the house as we left. (Joseph in red, and Liti on the far left in the photo.)
And if you’ll allow me to digress a bit, I’d like to tell you a little about Liti. She’s from the town of Nausori,
which is about a one and a half hour bus ride from the main hostel. She wakes up every weekday morning at 3, to cook her roti for the day and make her husband’s lunch. She then rushes off to catch the 5:30 bus to Suva, arriving around 7. At the hostel, she helps make the lunches, and also helps get the children off to school. Then, after the morning staff devotions and hostel meeting, she starts right in, preparing the evening meal for 50 some people. After a full day of work, she leaves the hostel at 4:30 and walks to catch the 5 o’clock bus back to Nausori, usually arriving around 7. Occasionally her husband, a cab driver, is in the area, and surprises her by swinging by to give her a lift home in his cab, which cuts her travel time quite a bit. Once at home, she’s back in the kitchen again, preparing the evening meal there. She tries to be in bed before 9, so she can get up again at 3. (I’m tired just writing about her day!) But Liti loves her job, loves the children, loves to cook, and always has a smile for everyone. I’ve never once heard her complain. I think she’s amazing!! And according to all reports, she’s a very good cook, too!! We’re thankful to have her on staff!
In addition to Joseph, we’ve also signed on 3 more deaf kids: Gloria, Joshua, and Penieli, all five years old---and each with his/her own story---to be told at another time. We also heard recently that one of our present students has a 3 year old brother who is also deaf. We’re excited to be finding children at younger ages now, in order to give them a better start in school. Our ‘child find’ teams will be going out to other islands over the holidays, and should be bringing back more deaf children. We’ll keep you posted on that!