Vladimir Gongora, 17, thought he was the only person who could not hear.
He grew up in Cuyantepeque, El Salvador, an isolated farming village nestled between mountains, that had no health center and, until recently, no road access for cars.
For Vladimir, there was also no school: Because he could not hear or speak, teachers shut him out, his family said. For years he lingered by the school doors at recess, waiting for other children to exit, waiting for playmates. He communicated only with his two sisters and grandparents, using hand signals they had invented.
But now, as a student at the Lexington School for the Deaf in Jackson Heights, Queens, he has made friends with classmates who are also hearing impaired and is learning sign language and to read and write.
“He wants to work,” said his father, Jose Gongora, who never went to school, “and later get a car. He dreams a lot, right?”
Learn about crucial help he received from Catholic Charities.