28 Apr
  • By Theresa DeSouza
  • Cause in

One Student’s Hope for the Future

Carlos Daniel Rodas Mendez is a 13-year-old Guatemalan boy.

He has the hopes and dreams of any adolescent – playing soccer, making friends, doing well in school, and having a happy life. His mother, Johanna, is a nurse at the UPAVIM clinic. She is a caring, loving mother who wants the best for her son. While in many ways Daniel is a typical teenage boy, there is one physical difference; he was born with a genetic malformation that caused his ears to not develop.

He was also born prematurely at 6 months and 2 weeks, weighing just 4 pounds at birth. He spent his first two months of life in the hospital, fighting pneumonia. He suffered from relapses of pneumonia and bronchitis throughout his childhood until around age 11 or 12.

He is currently in primero basico, middle school. This year he has been making more friends, finding support and community, particularly within his religion, improving in school, and joining a soccer league. But life for Daniel has not always been so positive.

In elementary school Daniel experienced a lot of bullying. His classmates made fun of him because he has trouble with his speech and cannot always clearly express himself. They would not want to work with him or share with him, often complaining that they could not understand him.

Teaching about values and respect isn’t enough, we have to live it and model it everyday.

Daniel cannot communicate like other children and has difficulty hearing. He has an assistive audio device that amplifies sounds. Sometimes the sounds become so loud that he has to turn the volume down and sound ratios can be challenging. Without the aids though, Daniel cannot hear.

His grades started to drop and soon he did not want to go to school anymore. He would cry at home everyday, asking why his classmates didn’t like him. Soon, he was filled with constant frustration and was always angry and crying. Johanna remembers thinking, “This isn’t my son, this isn’t who he is.” Often the two of them would cry together.

Johanna tells of countless meetings with teachers and school administrators about Daniel. She says it is hard because in school there were not modifications for him despite his different needs. In her experience, teachers do not always have the experience of working with children who have special needs and often do not want to have to repeat dictations or instructions over again. While they discuss bullying and respect in school, it is not always enough and is a major problem in classrooms everywhere. Johanna eloquently said: “Teaching about values and respect isn’t enough, we have to live it and model it everyday.”

[framed_box bgColor=”#FFFDDB”]The UPAVIM community is hoping to raise enough money to be able to send Daniel to the United States to get prosthetic ears. If you are interested in helping, please [icon_link style=”email” color=”blue” href=”mailto:mary@upavim.org” target=”_blank”]send us an email[/icon_link] You can also make a donation to contribute to Daniel’s fund here.

Daniel2Daniel understands that he was born this way, but that does not mean he understands why. Nor does it prevent him from longing to be like everyone else. He just wants to be a normal boy, to be able to learn normally and be able to talk and communicate well. He wants to look like his two sisters and be like them. He wants to have ears like everyone else.

Johanna wants nothing more for Daniel than for him to be able to achieve all of his dreams and to be happy and healthy. He yearns for prosthetic ears and talks about them all of the time, dreaming of how life would be better if he had them. She wishes she were able to give them to him. But she explains, prosthetic ears, like the ones Daniel needs, do not exist in Guatemala. She hopes to find someone to donate prosthetic ears so that he will have a long-term solution, to be able to hear better, and have a higher quality of life.

The Ronald McDonald Foundation previously donated two hearing devices including the one that Daniel currently uses but the organization will not likely donate anymore. Johanna worries for the future; she worries and does not know what they will do when his current device stops working or what they will do as he continues to grow and will need a bigger size. It is taxing having to constantly worry because it is not an if but a when that Daniel will need a new device. She prays a lot and wonders if and where the help for prosthetic ears will come from.

In Johanna’s words: “We struggle and fight and it’s hard and full of sadness, but we support him and love him.”