I haven’t written an update on Clara for awhile, so there is a lot to catch up on!
As previously discussed, my friend Nienke put me in touch with an American special needs teacher here, Celeste, who then arranged for a young deaf Peruvian women, Karen, to work with Clara. Finally everyone’s schedules coodinated, and they came to Yanapay to visit. Clara soon figured out that we were discussing her, and she refused to join us, acting unusually shy and hesitant. Nevertheless, Celeste explained everything to Yuri, and acted as a multi-communication translator, signing to Karen and telling me in English. Yuri was thrilled with the idea, as was Karen’s mom, whose support was also important for this to work. I was beaming with happiness, as it seemed Clara was finally going to get consistent help. In the process, I obtained my name in sign – a “d” next to my glasses. Finally Clara was forced down to join us, the idea was explained to her as best as possible, and she agreed to work with Karen.
On the first day of class, Karen and I sat down with Clara, and Clara already didn’t seem very happy. She kicked me under the table in protest, but we carried on with the lesson. Karen went through the alphabet in sign, and then seeing that she hadn’t brought any materials, I pulled out my flashcards. She went through each of those, with Clara learning the signs. She then quizzed Clara, and she remembered nearly all of them. Not knowing what to do next, I ran to the storeroom to get some drawing materials. However, when I returned, Clara had run off, and I had no success in coaxing her back. “Poco a poco” I told Karen, little by little.
The following day, Clara wouldn’t even sit down with us to start the lesson. We tried and tried to persuade her to join us, but no luck. Eventually, however, as Karen and I stood around not knowing what to do, Clara invited Karen up to the games room. Great! Clara is warming up to her teacher! I thought. Karen was hesitant, but luckily she went up and joined Clara. I left them alone, with the hope that Karen would turn it into a learning opportunity. After about 10 minutes, they came down and went into the art room. I tried to spy a bit, but mostly gave them their space. They weren’t really working with each other, but working next to each other was a start.
By the following day, Clara would no longer greet me. I assume it was because I was making her work, and perhaps because she comes to Yanapayto play, to have fun, and to be with other kids. It is entirely possible that she is in her house all day, as she no longer attends school. She wouldn’t sit down to work with Karen, and I began to think it all might fall apart. I was away from Yanapay for a few days, and was afraid the lessons be over when I returned.
Although Clara still wouldn’t greet me when I returned, she was proudly sounding out, “I am Clara!” One of the volunteers had somehow taught her that. She was also showing that she could sign her name. I joyfully discovered that Karen had brought 2 of her friends, and they all worked with Clara that day. It turns out, in my absence, the teachers at Yanapay had explained to Clara that if she wants to continue to come to Yanapay, she has to work with Karen. I was extremely curious what they were all doing in the classroom, but I left them alone, and they worked for well over an hour.
A few weeks later, Karen started a job, but she had started to go to Clara’s house on Sundays for the lessons, which are hopefully continuing. Last week, again after an absence when I went to Puno and Bolivia, I returned and saw Clara signing with Yuri. It was not longer gestures and pantomimes, but real signing, which she seemed to be doing it with new found confidence and perhaps even a slight bit more maturity than I had seen before!