John Paul II Foundation / Magazine / Children of Effeta

The children of Effetà

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         School has just ended at Bethlehem's "Effetà Paul VI" Institute, and 7, including boys and girls, have reached their long-awaited maturity after years of toil. It is an important moment in their lives, launched into a future full of hope. They come from different parts of Palestine: Bethlehem, Beit Jala, Beit Sahour and surrounding areas, Ramallah, Hebron and nearby villages (they are located 10 kilometers from Bethlehem), but also from Jericho (45 kilometers from Bethlehem) and Jenin. Many from the Jerusalem region (except in very rare cases) and the North are excluded because of transportation and passage problems due to the security wall separating Israel from Palestine, a situation that does not allow access to those who will not be able to take advantage of the rehabilitation that could provide a better life.

Everyone is ready at 7:30 a.m. when the boys and girls, boys and girls are welcomed by the school for the customary ritual of saluting the Palestinian flag during the national anthem, and then everyone in the classroom, but there is also time to remember some anniversaries (there are more than 190 pupils here), to start the day with the different disciplines (gymnastics, manual arts, drawing, Arabic, English and religion of belonging, among others).

Weaker pupils will be tutored by speech therapists, a necessary activity to catch up with others. A short break to allow them to play and then back to class until the end of classes set for 1:30 pm. The lucky ones will have the opportunity to sleep in the facility. Others, however, will have to return home taking up to 2 hours.

Most pupils are fitted with behind-the-ear implants that amplify auditory signals and, with specific reeducation, help them to perceive sounds and noises, discriminate words and simple sentences in relation to the degree of hearing loss. A small number of schoolchildren, however, benefit from a cochlear implant. The implant is indicated for children with profound deafness and replaces the cochlea, the organ of hearing, by converting sounds from the environment into electrical signals and sending them directly to the auditory nerve.

Effetà's children know that they have to work harder than others to achieve results because disability completely impairs their hearing ability, and prosthetics and implants, along with rehabilitation, are the only tools for them to manifest their existence in this world. Without implants these children would be completely marginalized. But Effetà's children are also strong, they do not give up in the face of difficulties, and many of them continue their education at the university, although discouraged by some teacher on duty who sees deafness as an almost insurmountable obstacle.

They are followed in their journey beyond the institution by the teachers and sisters themselves, who are often called upon to explain outside the institution (through thematic meetings and workshops, for example) what limitations the children are subjected to on a daily basis and the approach to follow in order to support them effectively because the children of Effetà, wherever they may be, will always have the family by their side.

Marco Italiano


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