by Elizabeth Edwards March 1, 2023A Second HomeFor many students in Brazil, the school for the deaf in Medianeira has become synonymous with hope. And they are willing to travel across their vast country to be in a place that feels, as one student put it, like their “second home.”Unfortunately, people with deafness and other hearing disabilities often struggle to access high-quality education and secure jobs to support themselves and their families. With this reality in mind, the Associação Medianeirense de Surdos e Fissurados (AMESFI) started working with the deaf community in 1995, when they opened a school for the deaf to serve children of all ages. Beyond standard schooling, AMESFI also teaches LIBRAS, the Brazilian sign language, to interpreters and other community members to increase deaf students’ chances of entering the public school system. AMESFI was already working in partnership with Lions in the state of Paraná and now has partnered with Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF) to create job opportunities for people with hearing disabilities.Through a US$75,000 Matching Grant from LCIF, Lions Clubs in Medianeira and Lions Clubs Medianeira Parque Iguacu built a new facility focused on vocational training with AMESFI. Their LCIF grant made the two-story building possible, a space that now serves over 100,000 students between the ages of 14 and 25 each year. In this facility, students start with aptitude and interest tests to guide their careers. Additionally, students receive job search coaching and attend workshops with local companies, some of which are owned and staffed by local Lions.“The vocational school seeks to guarantee the right to education, health, inclusion in the labor market, and the prospect of a better future for students and their families,” says Sirlei Bittencourt Pinheiro Brod, president of AMESFI and secretary of Lions Clubs Medianeria Pargue Iguacu.Since many of the teachers graduated from the AMESFI program, they fully understand their students’ aspirations and have the context necessary to build student knowledge in a way to help them participate in society successfully. To date, the grant dollars LCIF invested in this partnership have shaped significant outcomes for students including increased employability, opportunities for professional qualification, strengthened self-esteem, financial autonomy, and improved socialization.“Being part of something that truly has a significant impact on the lives of every person who is deaf or hard of hearing cannot be measured,” Brod says.Through this holistic program focused on educational and vocational opportunities, AMESFI and Lions in the state of Paraná made a home for the deaf community, one that builds confidence and skills; one that connects deaf students with opportunities to secure their futures.Learn more about how LCIF’s Matching grants can empower your service.