Recently I received an invitation from Peace Corps volunteer Greg Beauchamp to visit a class of deaf students with their teacher, Mounir, at Greg's site in Mrirt. I hopped off a souk bus from Fez, and there was Greg. We hurried to the class, and I noticed that in the group of about a dozen deaf people, there were several young boys, about six or seven years of age. I saw an older deaf man, a mother with her young son, and about four or five boys who ranged from eleven to eighteen. There were also two young teenage girls. This was definitely not a typical class for deaf students, but in small villages with just one teacher, this is what you can find. In the 1800's, the first school for the deaf in America opened its doors in Hartford, CT, to a similar class: a young girl, aged eight, several boys of varying age, and a accomplished portrait painter, who was in his fifties. How interesting to see the similarities over the centuries!
If you’re unsure how to engage youth with special needs through your work as a Peace Corps volunteer, local associations are a good place to start. Tata, my site, is not a very big town, but it does have the Association Al Amal for People with Disabilities. I noticed the association during my first blistering July in Tata. Typical for associations during the summer, the door was shut every time I went past, and there were no signs of life whenever I stopped by to bang on the door or creepily peer through the windows. Around my fifth time knocking on the door, though, a passerby spotted me and informed me that the association’s president would probably be there later that afternoon.
In Ifrane from September 25-29, 2013 Peace Corps had the opportunity to participate in the Moroccan Special Olympics. The Games were held at Al Akhawayn University. Thirty Peace Corps Volunteers were invited to join with other volunteers to assist in the Olympics. The Games featured over 1000 athletes with special needs. The athletes ages ranged from preteen through adults. Beginning with the opening ceremonies it was apparent the Games were truly a special occasion for everyone. As the crowds loudly applauded every group marching into the stadium it set the tone that this was an experience that will always be remembered. Peace Corps Volunteers assisted coordinators to successfully conduct each event. Competitions were held in track/field, soccer, swimming, equestrian, weight lifting, basketball, cycling, ping pong, and tennis. Watching the athletes compete was an enriching experience. They really put their hearts into it. When the athletes received their medals there was pure joy in their faces. PCVS lived with the athletes and other volunteers in different Olympic Villages. For the PCVS this allowed new friendships to be made and the chance for the athletes to interact with Americans. At the conclusion of the Games there were many tears, pictures, laughs, and hugs. In Ifrane for three days in September the true spirit of the Olympic movement was achieved.
I met Fatima, a little girl with Down’s syndrome, at our summer camp in August. She arrived with her mom, and was a bit shy initially. We became fast friends after I sat with her and repeated the directions for activities. Sometimes, I just stayed with her and tried to engage her in some simple questions. I noticed that she repeated everything I said, rather than answered me.
To determine where Fatima might be developmentally, I checked out her understanding of numbers, colors, simple objects, relevant places, people and objects.
I spent a little time with her when she came to camp, but thought it would be good for her to play with other kids. However, she was mostly alone, or staring at kids when she sat next to them.
Lesson plans for all students on special needs from the Special Olympics
Many volunteers will be working with the Special Olympics in Ifrane next week; in honor of them, here is the SO Get Into It! curriculum (available on their website as well)
Curriculum for 9-12 graders
Lesson One: So.. What's the Challenge: Recognize and Address Intolerance
Lesson Two: What does my community look like? Assess attitudes and strategies for acceptance
Lesson Three: Making a difference: Identify, Appreciate, and Recognize SO athletes
Lesson Four: How can I create change: Envision a better world, then make it happen
List of International Observances
· January 1 – Global Family Day (recognized by the UN)
· January 1 – World Day of Peace (established by Pope Paul VI in his letter dated on 8.12.1967)
· January 4 – World Braille Day
· February 4 – World Cancer Day (recognized by the UN and WHO)
· February 6 – International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation (recognized by WHO)
· February 11 – World Day of the Sick (Instituted by Pope John Paul II)
· February 17 – International Asperger’s Day
· February 20 – World Day of Social Justice (recognized by the UN)
· February 21 – International Mother Language Day (recognized by the UN and UNESCO)
We are happy to showcase Tiara Darnell's Carnival for deaf and developmentally challenged students in Ouarzazate for our first event spotlight! We ask that you let us know if you run, or have already completed, an event of this nature. We hope you share your best and worst practices with us as Tiara has done (remember that whole M&E thing?--We're working on it). You can find her report on the event below:
1. Could you briefly describe the event (1. the goals/ 2. what happened)
I collaborated with a local association to host a carnival at my Dar Chebab for deaf and developmentally challenged youth from a nearby school in my site. After having already worked with the kids doing art therapy classes for six months, the carnival was our first big event. The children prepared their own costumes with our help over a two day period. The goal this time was mainly to do something special for the children and to introduce them to the Dar Chebab since many of them never have the opportunity to leave the school grounds except to go home. We also wanted to bring attention to the school and the children since they are somewhat isolated and their school lacks the resources to do a lot of basic and extra things to support the children and their development.
In the end about 30-40 children took part in this event. The kids wore their costumes and walked in carnival fashion from their school to the Dar Chebab for all to see. After that we had face painting, bobbing for apples, puzzle games, bowling, and various games that used an American football. All of these games are fun for youth, and especially great for challenged youth because they are easy to explain.