If ever there was a story that could remind us of why IDEA exists, it would be that of Jimmy & Rezel.
Today they are a happy, loving couple with a handsome baby boy. They are employed, financially independent, educated, confident in their decisions, and decided on their ambitions. It hasn’t always been like this; however, and both have traveled a long way to get to this point. Here is their story.
Jimmy was born in the town of Jagna, on coastal Bohol, to a farming father and a stay-at-home mother. His father owned little land and regularly struggled to provide enough food for his family; Jimmy learned to be hungry at an early age. His mother was protective of him and very aware that people would not be so kind to her deaf son; therefore, she kept him hidden inside their house. He spent many hours there in solitude. At the age of six, his mother enrolled him in an IDEA supported special education program. Jimmy had never been apart from her and was scared at first, but soon, through the patient understanding of his teacher and the companionship provided by the other deaf children, he began to flourish.
At the age of seven, Jimmy’s wife, Rezel, recalls being tormented by the neighborhood boys whenever she would go out. They harassed her, called her stupid, crazy and even made crude sexual gestures at her expense. She was Deaf, and therefore, unacceptable in their eyes. Despite all of her parents love and affection, she felt incredibly cut-off and alone. They soon put her in a hearing elementary school, but less than a year later her teacher forced her out citing that Rezel was just too stupid to be in school. Her parents remained undaunted; they knew that their daughter had great capacity for learning. That’s when IDEA staff visited the family and enrolled her in IDEA supported special education classes. She stayed in an IDEA dorm, met other deaf children and, for the first time, no longer felt isolated. She learned sign language, how to read, write, count, and continued up through the grades as a stellar student. During high school she worked part time at Garden Café, an IDEA income generating project, in order to help out her parents. She graduated high school with honors and immediately began working full time with IDEA. She was then financially able to support both her parents and her two siblings. Rezel still works for IDEA and continues to be a star employee.
In 1998 Jimmy was hired on at Garden Café’s Jagna branch but was soon fired due to a drinking problem. He then met Rezel and sobered-up permanently. IDEA management saw the change and rehired him, and so began Jimmy’s now 12 year career with IDEA. Jimmy and Rezel dated and got married. They both had jobs, friends, money to support their relatives, and were ready and excited to start a family of their own. For the next year they tried, but to no avail. Disappointed and close to giving up hope, Rezel met Ellen Freed, a volunteer, who encouraged her to see a reproductive health doctor. There they discovered a cyst on one of her ovaries. She needed surgery, but it was far too expensive; so IDEA loaned them the amount. Rezel had surgery and not long afterward was able to conceive and give birth to their son, Jimmy Junior.
Jimmy and Rezel responsibly paid off their loan and are now saving for their next dream: to own a home. IDEA is hoping to fulfill their ambition. IDEA is in the midst of establishing a housing community with its employees. In cooperation with the local government, IDEA will build houses on lots and give employees the opportunity to own their own land and pay on it slowly over time. This is an unheard of concept in a place where most people build homes on land that they do not own and could never afford.
IDEA is proud of Jimmy and Rezel. Their story and their lives are a reminder of why we do, what we do. It is because of the many stories just like this that IDEA continues to serve the Deaf here in Bohol and Leyte.