Changing the Fate of a Deaf “House help”

An IDEA documentary, named “Amang,” follows the story of a nine-year-old Deaf named Aires. Like so many Deaf children growing up in the Philippines, she did not attend school. Instead, she stayed home to do chores like washing clothes and taking care of her younger siblings. Education for a Deaf child was simply out of reach for her family. Aires’ life would be forever changed when teachers from IDEA came to her home and recruited her to school 12 years ago.

Aires was recruited to Talibon Special Education (SPED) Center, one of IDEA’s supported SPED sites in Bohol. Though she was a bit shy, she was excited to learn and she started to thrive in her new environment. Aires was an enthusiastic student until she suddenly stopped showing up to school and her teachers became worried.

Aires’ teachers visited her home for a follow-up and they found Aires once again at home helping with chores and watching her siblings. Her parents were busy trying to make ends meet for their family. Her father worked as a farmer and sometimes as a motorcycle-for-hire driver while her mother was a housekeeper in a neighboring village. Aires felt that she had no other choice than to stay at home, do the chores, and watch her younger siblings while her parents worked.

Aires’ teachers never gave up encouraging her parents to allow her to return to school. Thankfully, she came back to school the following year. Her education was never easy. Aires’ family situation still forced her to leave school for weeks at a time to help at home. The family needed lots of help with nine children living on a meager income.

The stress at home to make ends meet eventually weighed on Aires too. Aires’ emotions grew to overwhelm her and she succumbed to outbursts of anger and frustration.  During a recent home visit, Aires was experiencing a great deal of frustration talking with her family. She snuck away from home and her mother found her several kilometers away at a friend’s house. Aires began withdrawing from her family and having suicidal thoughts.

Aires with her parents and sisters

One day when IDEA staff visited her home, Aires locked herself in her room, didn’t eat for nearly two days, and didn’t communicate with anyone. Aires’ mother didn’t give up and continued trying to communicate with her. Finally, Aires broke down in tears. She explained, “I am so upset and frustrated! I feel that I don’t get affection or attention from my family. I think it’s better to die, I’ll be happy.” Her mother, her siblings, and everyone that was there were holding back tears at her saying this. “Do you think God will be happy if you will do that?” they asked.

Aires just sat quietly and kept her head down as tears rolled down her face.

The IDEA staff asked her, “But how about your dreams? Don’t you want to graduate and get a job?”

Aires receiving her award during the BDA Graduation Day

Yes, I do. I want to help repair our house someday. I want to help my family. I love them,” Aires answered.

Once her father arrived home from work, the family had a crucial discussion.  Her parents admitted that the communication gap was a major problem in their family because they were unskilled in sign language. Aires was encouraged when her family told her they were doing their best to meet each of their kids’ unique needs. She tightly hugged her parents and sisters and apologized for worrying them. “I will keep in mind now the lessons I learned in our values class,” she said.

Aires graduated from high school at Bohol Deaf Academy (BDA) in March 2017. Her family was extremely proud of her as she got a special award for her excellence in their vocational class, particularly in Housekeeping. In May, she worked a summer job at the Governor’s Mansion along with six fellow BDA students. They are responsible in taking care of the vegetable garden around the province’s model bahay kubo (nipa hut).

Aires at the laundry area during her on-the-job training at Dao Diamond Hotel

“I feel happy to have this summer job. I am enjoying my work. I will be giving a part of my income here to my parents so I can help them buy food, that’s the most important. I want to make my parents happy,” she stated.

“After this, I am also planning to apply for a job at Dao Diamond Hotel so I can help support my family and repair our old house. I would like to work with the housekeeping department. Or if not, maybe I will try to start a small business…a little pig farm maybe,” she added.

Aires feels that her dreams are within reach and she is thankful for all the support that IDEA and her sponsors gave her. Despite the challenges she has faced, Aires has succeeded because of what she has learned and the support she has received.

“Those bad thoughts I had before? No, I won’t do it again. I fear God and I’ll always remember what I learned in our Values class… love, forgive, and be kind. I just pray every day; I thank Him for everything. I pray that God will always guide me, I believe He will,” Aires said.

Aires watering the plants during her summer job at the Governor’s Mansion