Several of our students completed their programs in November, and have returned to their islands, all with good qualifications for work. Although jobs are scarce, even for the hearing, we trust that these young deaf men and women will soon find work placements. We may make a trip to Kiribati (formerly the Gilbert Islands) later in the year, to help in that effort.
Avikesh, one of our students who completed high school last year, is now enrolled at The University of the South Pacific. Avikesh (3rd from the left in the photo at the left) was a 6 year old student in my class in 2002, our first year in Fiji. What a thrill, watching him grow and develop into a fine Christian deaf leader!
Several of our graduates have come back to work for us in the school and hostels. Lavenia (also in my first class in Fiji) is now a teacher aide, working with Class 1, teaching a unit on Children and Families around the World. In the photo above, students are learning about Mexico. Lavenia (left) also teaches sign language classes to teachers, parents, and the community.
New students are constantly joining the family at GSD. We began the school year in January, with 6 new students. Jim and I look forward to meeting them soon. They are (left to right in the photo at the right):
Tekamaeu, age 12, from Kiribati. His family learned about the school from other students we’ve had from that island country. He is not in the hostel, but stays with family in Suva.
Merekarita, who will turn 6 in February. She is from Ba, located in the interior of the island. Her mom heard about GSD, and wanted her daughter to receive an education, so she brought her to live in the hostel. Merekarita is very social, loves school, and is learning sign language and developing lots of friends.
out. Elena now lives in the main hostel, and though only 3, she is quickly learning sign language and loves school.
Lavenia will be 13 in April. This is her very first year in any school. Because she is shy, and not yet comfortable going into her classroom, her teacher allows her to watch from outside the door, until she feels safe enough to come inside. Lavenia lost her mom 3 years ago, and is being raised by her maternal grandparents. She lives at home, and her dad brings her back and forth to school each day. Lavenia was referred to us by an organization called “Project Heaven”, that tested her hearing in the village and diagnosed her deafness.
Qoroniasi (left) is 16 years old. He previously attended a special school in Suva for all handicapped. His parents heard about GSD, and wanted to send him.
And finally (at least for now) is Asesela (right). Though you can’t tell by this photo, he is actually very happy to be in school. After years of an isolated and lonely life in his village, he is now learning sign language, and is developing friendships in his new deaf community. Asesela is 17.
New to our staff this year is Setoke and his wife Ledua. Setoke is also one of our graduates. While still a student, he fell in love and later married one of our hostel workers. They now have a wonderful family, and are great parents. This year they are in training to become hostel parents, and are excellent role models for the deaf. We are thrilled to have them join the staff this year!
We also welcomed Christine Tawake this year. Christine was working at a small resort on the island of Beqa when we met her. Her dream was to become a teacher. Jim recruited her to come and work at the hostel, where she would learn about the deaf, and learn sign language. The ministry paid for her university education. She completed her program at USP (University of the South Pacific) in November, and is now the first teacher at GSD with a university degree. We are proud of Christine and all that she has accomplished, and look forward to working with her this year. Christine also discovered a young deaf girl in her village on Beqa Island, who is now in Class 1 at GSD.
We are grateful for a good start to the new school year, and for the new students who have joined us. Please pray for these students as they adjust to life at school, away from their families. Many of our students as yet have no sponsors. If you are interested in sponsoring a child, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, check our website www.fijideaf.net for information and updates.
Jim and Marilyn