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  Report by Travellers Volunteer Liaison Eleanor about a deaf volunteer who taught at the deaf school in Cape Town, South Africa

Mandy had just arrived when I wrote my last report. She is totally deaf – so this period in Cape Town was a challenge for her and for me! Mandy could lip-read quite well, but apologised for the fact that she cannot yet speak very well. I can well believe that this is quite a battle – and I have come to respect what deaf people have to cope with.

At home in England, Mandy works as a teacher assistant in a school for the deaf. She is qualified in childcare and development has worked with children and adults with disabilities. She is 25 years old, and very outgoing and friendly and settled in at the MK School immediately. She related well to the members of staff and the children – all of whom use sign language.

For her first weeks she was placed in a class of younger children, who are completely deaf. She loved this class, and was able to relate well to the children and teacher. Then she went to a class of older children, some of whom had hearing aids, but most of the communication was still done in sign language.

In no time at all, Mandy had made friends with a number of the teachers, and was invited to join in with get-togethers in the deaf community. She spent weekends away from the Hostel and went to see all the tourist attractions of Cape Town.

After the first three weeks of her placement, Mandy moved to the DB School for the Deaf in a medium-sized town about 100 kilometers from Cape Town. This town lies in a beautiful wine-farming valley on the edge of the Karoo. It gets very cold in winter, and the mountains which completely surround the town are always covered in snow. On the way there over a mountain pass, we saw hundreds of little waterfalls cascading down the slopes after the rain. Absolutely beautiful ! Mandy said after the first week there that she was freezing, but enjoying the scenery, the school and the experience.

She was placed in a class of grade 2 children, most of whom were not hearing – and her teacher was a lovely lady who told Mandy to see her as her South African mum, and to feel she could talk about anything at all with her. The spoken language of the school is Afrikaans, but all teachers and staff also speak English. However, for Mandy this was no problem, as sign language fits in with either of the two. Everyone uses sign language.

At weekends, the school bus brought her into Cape Town on a Friday and back on a Sunday – along with a number of children and teachers. She stayed with friends for weekends.

I received an email from the headmaster of the DB School, saying that Mandy had been an absolute delight and they wish she could have stayed longer. She was a great help in the classroom, and very easy to get on with. Another volunteer – from Austria – and Mandy got on very well, and went shopping etc together.

Tomorrow I will be fetching Mandy from the DB School and then she will go on vacation for three weeks before returning to her original school in Observatory.

So far, offering a placement to someone who is totally deaf is working out well. But then Mandy is a confident, self-sufficient young lady, who makes friends easily and works out a way of dealing with difficult situations.

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Teach in a deaf school in South Africa

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