Colorado’s Dominican Connection
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Bonet began Escuela Para Sordos Esperanza de Vida, a school for deaf children, after participating in a two-week sign language workshop through the Dominican Republic’s Ministry of the Deaf. A leader in her local church (Iglesia Asambleas de Dios central de Los Alcarrizos), which hosted the event, put Bonet in charge of following up with and evangelizing the hearing-impaired individuals who received training during the event.
During her evangelism efforts, Bonet learned a large number of deaf people did not attend a school because only two such schools existed in the nation, both located in the capital Santo Domingo, 9 miles from Los Alcarrizos.
“I asked myself, How do I evangelize them if they do not know how to read or write?” Bonet remembers. “This challenged me to open a classroom for children who were not attending school.”
At the time, she participated in many ministries in the local Assemblies of God church, including full-time teaching, Sunday School, leading youth and children’s ministries, overseeing missions, and heading up public relations. She decided to step back from those ministries because she knew others would fill those gaps, while no one else at that time provided instruction to the deaf children in her community.
Bonet, her sister Esperanza Marisol Suazo Rodríguez, and individuals they recruited began Escuela Para Sordos Esperanza de Vida and initiated a ministry to deaf adults within the church. The school currently has 31 deaf children, and the ministry serves 15 adults.
Bonet married Luis Alfredo and moved to Colorado in 2011. Alfredo did not originally sense a passion for deaf ministries, but God gave him a love for the deaf community. In his work within the postal system, he found himself in charge of facilitating communication to deaf people who worked in mail service. Alfredo recently died from COVID-19.
The school and the ministry within the church continue in the Dominican as Bonet coordinates with her sister, who works at the school, and two volunteers, who serve at the church. They serve as interpreters, help deaf adults look for jobs, provide education to deaf children, and train parents and siblings of the church to learn sign language. Recently the program began to collect food donations to deliver to families of children with disabilities.
In addition, the church hosts a monthly service where the deaf are integrated into the hearing service with interpretation. The program provides Bible teaching on Facebook and at the school once a week.
Joseito Velasquez is lead pastor of Healing Waters Ministries, the church Bonet attends in Wheat Ridge, Colorado. Velasquez says the impact of the work taking place in the Dominican became evident to him when he accompanied church volunteers on a visit in 2017.
“To see her passion to work with this group of people who are seen less because of their disability just brought tears to our eyes,” Velasquez says. “Her ministry not only preaches and teaches the gospel, but it prepares them to face the challenges of real life.”
Multiple organizations and individuals have provided the resources for the school to function over the years. Bonet permits the school to use her home in the Dominican for classes, the Ministry of Education has donated educational materials, and an institution called PIEDAD gave scholarships to some of the children. Bonet and her husband sent funds from their own salaries in the United States to pay her sister’s salary in the Dominican.