Reading and signing
The ‘Unidad Educativa Huascar Cajias’ is a school for deaf children in Villa Pabon, La Paz. About 50 students receive their education at the school, from Monday to Friday during afternoon hours. All the children have moderate to profound hearing loss, some also have additional disabilities. The school offers primary education, after which students are integrated in a regular high school where they are supported by a sign language interpreter.

The children at school receive hearing aids as a donation from ‘Amigos del Hogar’ and are supported in their speech development by a speech teacher. All the teachers use Sign supported Spanish, or Sign Language of Bolivia, which is related to American Sign Language. Parents receive sign language courses and other workshops at the school. A social worker visits the families to support them in the education of their deaf child


The teachers who work at the school did not receive professional training to teach deaf children, however they are very motivated and follow courses to maximize their abilities, such as sign language and special education. A hearing professional, who has experience in working with deaf children, would be able to pass their skills onto the full time staff and make a vast difference.

A volunteer with experience in deaf education could:

  • assist the teachers in teaching the children to read and write
  • support the teachers in improving the self esteem of the children
  • adjust teaching methods to the needs of the deaf children and their teachers
  • support the children in the process to adapt to the use of hearing aids
  • give workshops to teachers and parents to improve their knowledge of the needs of the deaf children
  • work together with the social worker and parents to improve their understanding of the children’s potential
  • develop projects to work with the teachers and the children in certain subjects (Deaf culture, poetry in sign language etc.)

Fitting a hearing aid A speech therapist with experience in articulation therapy with deaf children could:

  • support the local speech teacher in determining the articulation level and the auditory possibilities of each child and adjust the therapies accordingly
  • support the local speech teacher in therapeutic methods to optimize the oral skills of the children
  • give workshops to teachers and parents to improve methods of practicing oral skills with the children
  • support the local speech teacher and the teachers in the use of the hearing aids

Apart from ‘professional’ volunteers, the school could greatly benefit from volunteers who have not yet experienced working with deaf children. These volunteers can:
  • work with the children in creative activities: drama, music, dance, handwork, painting, etc.
  • develop projects to work with the teachers and the children in certain subjects: improving self esteem, informing the community about deaf issues, working with visions for the future, etc.
  • assist the teachers in the classroom: helping the children with their work, work with a small group of children, etc.
Volunteers who want to work at the deaf school don’t need previous knowledge of a sign language. Some of the parents of the deaf students are present at school to assist volunteers in communication during activities. People who already know a sign language will learn the Bolivian Sign Language easily, others can learn to use signs by using a book, cd-roms, interacting with the children or taking signing classes in La Paz.

Volunteer therapist and students The school and ‘Amigos del Hogar’ are not able to pay volunteers for their work or for their stay. On the other hand, volunteers don’t have to pay an inscription fee to volunteer at the school.The school is open from February through November, and closes in the Bolivian winter for about three weeks (starting the last week of June).

La Paz is a spectacular city situated in a hollow on the high andean planes. Despite its high altitude of approximately 3600m, the climate is generally good, with the dry, cold season in the months of June to August, and the rainy season from January to March. Accomodation is easy to find, with a Bolivian family, or in a separate apartment. Depending on the degree of comfort required, prices can range between $50-$150 per month. Food is inexpensive therefore a budget of about $100-$150 per month, apart from the rent, is perfectly realistic. The school is not able to provide accommodation or meals. ‘Amigos del Hogar’ can arrange a stay with a family or can help to look for a private or shared apartment, according to the wishes of the volunteer.

If you have skills that you think you could make a valuable contribution to Unidad Educativa Huascar Cajias and the Hearing Program, please fill in the volunteer application form and send it to us. We will then be in touch regarding any questions or doubts you may have.