Life on the Edge — Children

Children living on the margins of society are especially vulnerable.  Several speakers — the director of a school for the deaf, a gifted musician and a public-sector systems analyst — explained what they are doing to provide education and opportunity to marginalized children.

EFATA School was started by an American missionary named Vernon Miller, a deaf man with a passion for teaching sign language.  The school’s director, Clelia Ocampo, described how sign language was brought to Peru and how her staff educates deaf children, many of whom live in dormitories on-site.  Jorge Garrido Lecca is a guitarist and entrepreneur who founded the Lima Contemporary Music Festival.  He described his work with fellow musicians to teach music to underprivileged children in the cones outside central Lima.  Jenny Menacho works for Peru’s recently-established Ministry of Development and Social Inclusion.  She explained the government’s efforts to replace outdated social programs with new projects designed to feed, educate and empower the rural poor.

To gain a better understanding of life for orphaned children, we spent the night at Casa Hogar Juan Pablo II.  The director of the children’s home, Father Sebastian, explained how they have adapted the Boys’ Town model in a Peruvian context.   Children live in family groups of 8 members, with a married couple and a helper providing leadership and care for the children in each group.  In the morning a group of our students toured the facility and worked in the garden, pulling weeds in a newly-established field where vegetables will soon be planted.  The rest of the group traveled to EFATA School to take part in the annual celebration of International Day of the Deaf.  They were accompanied by Goshen College faculty member Colleen Geier, who teaches American Sign Language Interpreting and spent a week in Lima taking part in our study program and visiting with the ASL students.