Jaclyn Mariano, a psychology student who lives in California, recently went to Shillong, Meghalaya, in India to volunteer at Ferrando’s Speech and Hearing Center.
The center has been working for over 12 years to help children who have a hearing impairment as well as other disabilities.
“I’ve always been passionate about working with children who have been through trauma and helping them see there is always a way to find happiness and achieve their goals. But more importantly, I wanted to show them that they are not alone,” Mariano said in a press release.
While she was there, Mariano worked with children who had Down Syndrome and Autism, “so I was able to use my training from school and from experience in dealing with my brother (who is autistic), on these students,” she told News India Times.
“A lot of the students just wanted someone to talk to about their disability and express their needs, suffering and even their happy moments to. I felt like they just wanted to be heard, despite their disability of being deaf,” she added.
Mariano found out about Ferrando’s Center in Shillong “through a family friend, a priest, who visits us every couple of years.”
“He told me about Shillong and a school for disabled children when I was younger. He told me when I am ready I should come and help out. I also wanted to go to a country where the resources are limited for intellectually/physically disabled children so I can offer my services as much as I could,” she said.
So after some initial research, she started packing.
“We never went without each other, so deciding to leave for India for six months was a big step,” she exclaimed.
While volunteering, Mariano treated the kids like her brothers and sisters as she “did not want to replace their parents.”
Therefore, during school hours, the relationship was professional and she asked the children to refer to her as their teacher, but once the day ended she was “able to act like a child again” as she played, gossiped and told stories to the children.
“We had fun and there was always laughter. They shared their stories with me and they were intrigued with mine. They weren’t afraid about talking about loss, because they have lost so much as well,” she told News India Times.
Knowing the center was in need of money for funding, after returning to the U.S., Mariano set up a fundraiser on ImpactGuru with a target of raising about $928.
To her surprise, she was able to raise a total of $1,112, which was used to help pay for the children’s tuition, boarding and lodging, at the center.
Mariano said that she was thankful to ImpactGuru as their “platform allowed me to fundraise outside my own network; it was an addition to my friends and family who enrolled as donors.”
“I’m always open to helping raise money for the school, because I know each student has specific needs that they can’t unfortunately afford,” she said.
Since her childhood, Mariano’s parents had always taught her the importance of community service and working with disabled people.
When her father was killed in action in the war with Iraq, she was only 13-years-old.
“From then on it brought my mom, my two brothers and I closer than ever before,” she said.
Mariano told News India Times that she would love to help out people where ever it is needed in India as well as in any other developing country.
“I plan to keep finding places where disabled children need help. Right now I am studying to be a doctor in psychology, and I hope to make a national program that helps children all over the world,” she added.