The Holy Land Institute for the Deaf is located in Salt, just a short drive from Amman, Jordan. It caters to around 120 students aged 3 1/2 to 21, about 90% of whom live on site. Executive Director, Brother Andrew A.L. de Carpentier is originally from the Netherlands, but when a friend asked him to help run a youth center for deaf children in Lebanon, he found a new vocation, and a new home.
Brother Andrew became fascinated by sign language; he says that its Arabic incarnation is as fluid and expressively beautiful as Arabic script. In the decades that followed his first move to Lebanon, he became a student, then teacher, then advocate for the deaf community, especially the children of the Middle East. Along the way, he converted from his Dutch Reformed roots to the Anglican Church, and became a monk. Since then, his vocation has led him to help set up schools in Yemen, Gaza, Egypt, Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, and beyond; in a region that has seen much war and suffering, the most vulnerable children have not been overlooked by the Institute and its partners.
Noting the difference between hard of hearing students, who may be mainstreamed, and those who have no hearing and for whom language acquisition is exponentially more challenging, Brother Andrew is pleased with the way that the Institute and its partners have been able to change expectations for the education of deaf children. Today, around 50 of the Institute’s High School graduates are at university; some have already graduated and returned to the school as teachers.
Since the outbreak of war in Syria, the partner schools that the Institute helped to found there have failed to function. The Institute has received new requests to found more Community Disability Centers in refugee centers in Jordan for those displaced by war. Episcopal Relief & Development is helping to support one such center in the Za’atari Camp near the Syrian border. Now, there is a request from Azraq Camp, east of Amman, for similar services. The Camp now houses over 50,000 refugees from the war in Syria.
Asked about the role that faith plays in the education of the children at the Institute, Brother Andrew began by stating that faith is important in itself, before anyone begins to consider which faith. To describe God is not sufficient; relationship is the crucial factor in conveying God to the children at the school. Echoing the words of Fr Nabil and the Mayor of Amman, Brother Andrew is convinced that there is more in faith to bring people together than to divide them. The deaf children in his care understand this, he says. He encounters every day students with profound language difficulties, but a wealth of communication. The rest of the world might have plenty of language skills, but we have a lot to learn about communicating with one another.
Learn more about the Holy Land Institute for the Deaf “>here. Photo gallery: Brother Andrew A.L. de Carpentier, staff and students at the Holy Land Institute for the Deaf, Salt, Jordan.
This week, a group of Christian writers and bloggers are traveling in Jordan, courtesy of the Jordan Tourism Board and Royal Jordanian Airlines. A group of seven Episcopalians in included in the cohort. On Monday, we visited the Holy Land Institute for the Deaf. Its Director is also involved in an initiative to build an Anglican chapel and visitors’ site at the Bethany Beyond the Jordan site of the Baptism of Jesus. Look for one more post from #holyJordan when we visit the site on Tuesday.