Sofia’s Fight to Overcome Her Disability
Sofia, 16, lives in the southern part of Honduras.
When she was just 3 years old, her mother began to notice that Sofia wouldn’t respond to her when she was called. Worried, her mother decided to seek medical attention. The diagnosis was a difficult one to accept—Sofia had been born with a physical disability that prevented her from hearing and speaking.
Sofia’s parents made the decision to move to Honduras in hopes that their daugher would receive better medical attention. Once situated, a second doctor's opinion confirmed that Sofia could not hear. However, her parents also learned that she could speak. This was great news and her parents were excited about the possibility.
With the help of a special hearing aid, there was the chance that Sofia would be able to hear again. However, if she didn’t have the device, speech development would be impossible.
Sofia’s family was excited about the chance that she may be able to hear again, but they knew that they couldn’t afford to purchase the hearing aid. Despite this reality, they remained hopeful.
When Sofia was 10 years old, her family organized a series of local fundraising activities. With the help of their community, they were able to collect enough money to purchase a hearing aid.
Once Sofia was able to hear again, her life changed. Soon, she was able to say her first two words: “mother” and “father".
Struggle for Education
Despite her progress, there were still obstacles. Unable to read and write, none of the schools would accept her as a student.
In Honduras, education is free. However, children with disabilities are often denied an education because the school systems do not have the knowledge or the ability to teach children who have physical disabilities.
Undeterred, her family did not give up their fight. With Plan’s help, Sofia was accepted into the Republica de Honduras School. Her parents and teachers made a huge effort in supporting her needs and eventually Sofia was able to read and write. Today, Sofia’s notebook is full of drawings and letters and she hopes to become a teacher.
Fighting to Survive
While Sofia has made significant progress, the occurrence of a natural disaster could create additional challenges.
Honduras is vulnerable to landslides and flooding. During these times, Sofia’s hearing disability exposes her to greater risks and the likelihood that she may experience physical, psychological, emotional, and sexual abuse is increased.
To ensure that children with disabilities are protected in times of disaster, Plan has teamed up with partner organizations and Sofia’s community to develop a training program that will protect the children from neglect and abuse.
Through this training program, Sofia has learned to be more alert and self-defensive. In times of disaster, the children have been taught to seek help from nearby relief centers.
Although she has made significant progress, Sofia has a long way her go. Her family’s economic situation prevents them from purchasing the equipment needed to develop hearing, cognitive, and communication skills. Because of this, Sofia communicates with the world through her writing. She remains hopeful and is seldom seen without a smile.
Her family remains supportive of her progress, but they admit that it’s difficult to watch their daughter struggle.
"We want Sofia to talk and to listen, for us to understand her wishes and aspirations; we want her to develop as the other girls. As a mother, for me is painful to know that people make fun of my daughter for having a physical disability. Sofia is a smart girl and we keep the hope that one day she will listen and speak," her mother, Mercedes, says.