January is a time of new beginnings. GSD is no exception. With the arrival of January, comes the beginning of another new school year, and we’re off to great start!
In February, Jim and I will be handing over the leadership baton to Russell Neate, the new ministry director from Christchurch, NZ, and his wife Sue; a new beginning for them as well, and we look forward to all that God has in store for the ministry through them.
We also have a deaf couple, both university graduates and teachers of the deaf from Nigeria, beginning a new life here in Fiji with their two young daughters. They will be arriving soon, all leaving their homeland and flying for the first time. They will be living in our main hostel, while teaching at GSD.
Kuini, called ‘My Queen’ by Jim, is deaf. She completed her high school program last year while living in our hostel, and will begin her first job on staff at GSD, as a teacher aide in Class 3.
And finally, Joneti Rokotuibau, former teacher at GSD and sign language interpreter, also begins a new career as Curriculum Director this year, replacing Marilyn. She is already doing a great job working with the teachers, and enjoys her new position.
Our hostel staff remains the same, under the leadership of Tema
Toaisi, with her husband Tony and young son Temnik. All the hostel staff are dedicated, wonderful “parents” who daily love and care for the kids who have had to leave their families, in order to receive an education. We have a great staff this year, both at school and in our three hostels. As the song goes, that the kids love to sing and sign, “We are one big happy family!”
The ministry here is all about the kids--- so let me tell you about a few of them. We have five new ones so far, beginning school with us for the first time this year---three Kindergarteners, and one new student each in Class 2 and Class 4. Two more are coming soon, when passports, visas, and flights are worked out--- a 5 year old from Tonga and an 11 year old from Vanuatu. And more to come, I’m sure, as we continue to find them. Two young hearing girls have also joined our Kindergarten class this year. They are Sitiri (left in photo), sister of Class 1 student Gloria (right in photo), and cousin Nes (center), who lives with the family. They were enrolled at GSD because Gloria’s parents wanted them to learn sign language, to better communicate with Gloria. They love school, and after only 2 weeks, have picked up quite a few signs. And now for one last story, which is why we do what we do here. Amelia, age 10, is a delightful, well behaved, good student. She came to us this year from a local hearing school. Her Dad would drop her off everyday, and she would always, respectfully, do what her teacher told her to do. But she was not happy. Instead of doing school work along with her classmates, she was told to sweep the floors, dust shelves, and wash the windows. When her dad picked her up after school, she would run to him, greet him with a hug, and then burst into tears. I read her school reports; she had failing marks in almost every subject. The teacher comment on one of her reports read, “Needs to improve her listening skills”. Hmm! Her parents heard about GSD, and enrolled her. Amelia now wears a big smile, loves school, and has many deaf friends. Her teacher reports that she is doing well in class, and is learning sign language. She greets me every morning with a grateful hug! Her story is the story of many deaf in Fiji who struggle in schools where they are marginalized. They usually do not continue their education, though many are very bright. Our goal is to find them, and give them an opportunity for an education in a Christian deaf community. They are great kids, with so much potential!!
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