Published Wed, Apr 10, 2019. Written by .

An IDEA documentary, named “Amang,” follows the story of a nine-year-old Deaf named Aires. Like so many deaf children growing up in the Philippines, she did not attend school. Instead, she stayed home to do chores like washing clothes and taking care of her younger siblings. Education for a deaf child was simply out of reach for her family. Aires’ life would be forever changed when teachers from IDEA came to her home and recruited her to school 14 years ago.

Aires was recruited to Talibon Special Education (SPED) Center, one of IDEA’s supported SPED sites in Bohol. Though she was a bit shy, she was excited to learn and she started to thrive in her new environment. Aires was an enthusiastic student until she suddenly stopped showing up to school and her teachers became worried.


Aires’ teachers visited her home for a follow-up and they found Aires once again at home helping with chores and watching her siblings. Her parents were busy trying to make ends meet for their family. Her father worked as a farmer and sometimes as a motorcycle-for-hire driver while her mother was a housekeeper in a neighboring village. Aires felt that she had no other choice than to stay at home, do the chores, and watch her younger siblings while her parents worked.



Aires’ teachers never gave up encouraging her parents to allow her to return to school. Thankfully, she came back to school the following year. Her education was never easy. Aires’ family situation still forced her to leave school for weeks at a time to help at home. The family needed lots of help with nine children living on a meager income.


The stress at home to make ends meet eventually weighed on Aires too. Aires’ emotions grew to overwhelm her and she succumbed to outbursts of anger and frustration.  During a recent home visit, Aires was experiencing a great deal of frustration talking with her family. She snuck away from home and her mother found her several kilometers away at a friend’s house. Aires began withdrawing from her family and having suicidal thoughts.

One day when IDEA staff visited her home, Aires locked herself in her room, didn’t eat for nearly two days, and didn’t communicate with anyone. Aires’ mother didn’t give up and continued trying to communicate with her. Finally, Aires broke down in tears. She explained, “I am so upset and frustrated! I feel that I don’t get affection or attention from my family. I think it’s better to die, I’ll be happy.” Her mother, her siblings, and everyone that was there were holding back tears at her saying this. “Do you think God will be happy if you will do that?” they asked.

Aires just sat quietly and kept her head down as tears rolled down her face.


The IDEA staff asked her, “But how about your dreams? Don’t you want to graduate and get a job?”

“Yes, I do. I want to help repair our house someday. I want to help my family. I love them,” Aires answered.

Once her father arrived home from work, the family had a crucial discussion.  Her parents admitted that the communication gap was a major problem in their family because they were unskilled in sign language. Aires was encouraged when her family told her they were doing their best to meet each of their kids’ unique needs. She tightly hugged her parents and sisters and apologized for worrying them. “I will keep in mind the lessons I learned in our values class,” she said.

Aires graduated from high school at Bohol Deaf Academy (BDA) in March 2017. Her family was extremely proud of her as she got a special award for her excellence in their vocational class, particularly in Housekeeping. In May, she worked a summer job at the Governor’s Mansion along with six fellow BDA students. They are responsible in taking care of the vegetable garden around the province’s model bahay kubo (nipa hut).


“I feel happy to have this summer job. I am enjoying my work. I will be giving a part of my income here to my parents so I can help them buy food, that’s the most important. I want to make my parents happy,” she stated.


“After this, I am also planning to apply for a job at Dao Diamond Hotel so I can help support my family and repair our old house. I would like to work with the housekeeping department. Or if not, maybe I will try to start a small business…a little pig farm maybe,” she added.

Aires feels that her dreams are within reach and she is thankful for all the support that IDEA and her sponsors gave her. Despite the challenges she has faced, Aires has succeeded because of what she has learned and the support she has received.


“Those bad thoughts I had before? No, I won’t do it again. I fear God and I’ll always remember what I learned in our Values class… love, forgive, and be kind. I just pray every day; I thank Him for everything. I pray that God will always guide me, I believe He will,” Aires said.

Published Wed, Apr 03, 2019. Written by .


“Really? Send my deaf child to school? What’s next after schooling? Could she get a job?”

Parents often ask questions like these when our teachers and staff visit the homes of deaf children to recruit them to school. Convincing a family to send their child to school has never been easy.  Most parents are doubtful and unaware of their deaf child’s capabilities. Some would say helping deaf children is not worth it, but IDEA perseveres in doing our mission to help and serve the deaf.


The Elementary Achiever

Grace was one of those kids that our teacher visited again and again until she finally came to school. When she was 10 years old, Grace went to Loon Special Education (SPED) Center, but only a week after, her mother brought her back home because she kept crying in school. At that time, her parents enrolled her in a hearing class. Together with her sister, she attended a hearing school until the family realized it wasn’t easy for their deaf child to get along with the kids in their mainstream class. Her parents eventually decided to bring her back to Loon at the age of 14 to formally start schooling.


Grace and her Fellow Deaf Performing an Invocatory Dance

Despite a low income, her parents strived hard to get through each day to allow Grace and her two siblings to continue their studies. Her father worked as a motorcycle-for-hire driver while her mother took care of the cockpit arena beside their house where she was paid a meager amount.

Grace became so absorbed in school and growing in her new dorm environment that she barely noticed her newfound independence. Her family was glad to see Grace thriving in a place where she no longer felt isolated and ignorant. At the dorm, she was helpful with chores and she led the younger kids like a big sister. Aside from academics, she was also able to develop her talent in dancing. When she reached high school at Bohol Deaf Academy, the vocational skills training increased her confidence. She learned sewing, how to make soap, baking, and computer graphics. On Graduation Day, she received the award, Best in Sewing.

Published Tue, Mar 19, 2019. Written by .

The odds of a deaf high school graduate getting a job in a regular private business are pretty slim in the Philippines. For this reason, IDEA operates a number of businesses that currently employ over 150 deaf people. IDEA is working hard to give the deaf a better chance at employment in the general private business sector. The unemployment rate on the islands of Bohol and Leyte is over 50%, which makes it almost impossible for an untrained deaf person to find a job.


To prepare IDEA students for work after graduation, IDEA provides in depth vocational training to the deaf students. The skills taught include: baking, cooking, furniture making, fly tying, construction, sewing, welding, painting, pottery, computer graphics, plumbing, barber soap and detergent production, paper making, landscaping, and many more. These skills the students acquire help prepare them for many different professions or careers they choose to pursue.


Kids need exposure to many different possibilities of livelihood before they find something that clicks for them. This is the approach we take at our private high school, Bohol Deaf Academy. Bohol Deaf Academy (also known as BDA) stresses vocational education and the students love it! Academic education paired with practicing applicable life skills means opportunities to succeed, to work, and to find fulfillment.



Starting in their freshman year, the students learn through both classroom and on-the-job training formats. They are given six hours each week when they are allowed to “job shadow” with any number of IDEA working professionals. In job shadowing, the student observes and may lend a hand in some tasks. This is just an introductory time for them. This exposure is continued in their sophomore year. If the student still hasn’t been able to find a trade that suits them, then they will continue the job shadowing for their Junior year as well.



Generally by their Junior year, students have decided what interests them the most and will focus on that trade. Under this intensive system, the students will spend two full days each week working side by side with our professionals. They will actually be producing products or carrying out tasks that are required in the real world. They will adjust to an 8 hour work day and meeting expectations of an employer. For some, this is a difficult adjustment but necessary if they hope to find jobs outside of IDEA businesses.


Part of Dennis Drake’s mission of IDEA was to not only provide education and employment for the students of IDEA, but to also give them opportunities outside of the IDEA family of businesses. IDEA works to continue that mission with the provided vocational training to launch students after graduation into the job world, whether it be within IDEA’s businesses or not. With the training provided, they go confidently into their chosen trade or profession with the skills they need to succeed anywhere they choose.


Published Wed, Mar 06, 2019. Written by .

Unheard of: One Man’s Journey to the Middle of a Miracle is a new documentary done by Group Productions that chronicles the journey Dennis Drake went on to find his purpose and passion in starting IDEA.

The documentary shows the struggles and hardship found in the lives of not only the deaf in the Philippines, but in the life of Dennis Drake. His flood of heartache transformed into a tsunami of hope. Betrayed, depressed, and newly divorced, Dennis Drake joined the Peace Corps to teach deaf children. He was looking for a fresh start in a tropical paradise. What he found was something much greater.

Dennis Drake’s story is one of brokenness brought into a miracle. He found his purpose and passion while overcoming hardship. While in the Philippines, he saw a need and he found a way he could fill that need. He saw a lack of community and lack of opportunities for the deaf people living in the Philippines, which brought him to where he is today: serving and providing for the deaf community over 30 years later.

The documentary follows Dennis through rural Philippine villages searching for deaf children. It joins him in the classrooms and businesses he built to educate and employ deaf students. You’ll hear stories from deaf friends whose lives were forever changed.

Unheard of is Dennis’ modern-day parable of finding lifelong purpose- one that will inspire you to find yours. You can experience the redemption, friendship, and hope as God weaved them together in the middle of a miracle.


You can learn more about the documentary at or



Published Mon, Feb 18, 2019. Written by .

Our annual Spring Fundraiser is just a month away! This year, we are bringing in Mandy Harvey to perform in Billings, MT on March 22nd.



About Mandy Harvey


Mandy Harvey is an American jazz singer and songwriter; she is also deaf.


A Vocal Music Education major at Colorado State University, Mandy lost her residual hearing in 2006-2007 at age eighteen due to a neurological disorder and left the program. She pursued

several career options, including education, but returned to music in 2008. She quickly became a regular performer at Jay’s Bistro in Fort Collins and then branched out to having regular concerts at Dazzle Jazz Lounge in Denver (Top 100 Jazz venues in the world).


With three jazz recordings to her credit, Mandy prepares to break more barriers with her new recording, “This Time!” In 2009, Mandy’s first album, “Smile” was released to widespread praise. Since then, she has released two more critically acclaimed albums: 2010’s “After You’ve Gone” and, in 2014, “All of Me.”


She was the winner of a 2015 IDA Inspiration Award from Invisible Disabilities Association. Though her hearing loss is profound, her timing, pitch and passion are perfect. That’s why the media, including NBC Nightly News, have taken notice. With support from friends, family and her faith, Mandy continues to find and spread joy with her music.


“From the first note, Mandy Harvey tames her audience into stunned appreciation as she glides pitch-perfect from breathy jazz standard to growling blues…. At show’s end the audience is on its feet. Some know the secret. Harvey has not heard any of it – not the applause, not the talent of the musicians who shared the stage, not her own incredible voice.”

– Los Angeles Times


You won’t want to miss our chance to hear Mandy Harvey!


Spring Fundraiser


The Spring Fundraiser is one of our biggest events that supports IDEA and our Mission. All proceeds of tickets from the Spring Fundraiser goes to provide for over 500 deaf students in the Philippines. At the event, you will hear the amazing Mandy Harvey sing, hear her story, and also hear ours.


IDEA is a USA non-profit foundation that works to educate impoverished and neglected deaf children in the Philippines. At the upcoming concert, you will get the chance to learn more about IDEA’s mission and how you can help. Your generosity and support is what makes IDEA possible!


If you haven’t purchased your tickets yet, you can do so here.





Published Wed, Feb 06, 2019. Written by .

Winter Newsletter

Celebrating Togetherness

On November 29th in Tagbilaran City on the island of Bohol, Philippines, 600 deaf men, women and children came together for a huge gathering of the IDEA deaf family. The event is known as the IDEA Deaf Festival and is held once every three years. Deaf students, alumni, and workers from all over the islands of Bohol and Leyte joined to celebrate their amazing community. Before the arrival of IDEA on Bohol there was no Deaf Community at all. Now it is vibrant, thriving, and very alive.



Over four days, this wonderful group of people held a sports festival, put on a tremendous show, enjoyed lots of good food, and reinforced lifetime friendships. The students also went Christmas shopping with money provided by their sponsors and donors. IDEA Founder, Dennis Drake, had his birthday during the festival. Dennis said in his inspirational talk that the life of every deaf person was like a gift to him. He thanked Jesus for the wonderful opportunity to have been able to serve this rare and special community.




This festival was held in our brand new Chuck and Francie Scheel Sports and Event Center up at the Bohol Deaf Academy campus. Some 45 years ago, Dennis Drake asked Chuck Scheel to be his life mentor. Because of the amazing advice and support given to him, Dennis credits Chuck for much of IDEA’s success. It is for this reason that the center was built to honor this amazing couple. A big THANK YOU to their family and friends who donated funds to build this beautiful facility. It will better serve the deaf on the island of Bohol for many generations to come!

Nurturing Hope

As Nancy performed her work duties at the IDEA fly tying factory, such as checking on product quality and teaching new patterns, she noticed that some of the women were signing things about her. Almost everyone in the factory is deaf like Nancy. She caught someone asking another co-worker, “Is Nancy pregnant?” Gossip isn’t so easy to hide when using sign language. Nancy herself had noticed that her stomach had been growing for some reason and it was true, she was looking pregnant. But, her being pregnant wasn’t a possible reason for  this sudden change.


One day, Marilou Drake noticed the change in Nancy as well and decided to speak with her directly about it. After their talk, Marilou was determined to send Nancy for tests and assured her that IDEA would stand by her. Nancy had joined IDEA’s school program when she was just 6 years old. She came out of extreme poverty, a broken home and also has a brother and sister who are deaf.


The results of the tests were not encouraging. They showed that Nancy had a very large tumor growing inside of her. She would need surgery and it was unknown if it was cancer. Nancy was so afraid of going under the knife that she followed her mother’s advice and went to visit the local witch doctor who had her drink some disgusting mixture. The concoction didn’t work and only made her sick to her stomach. After that experience, she realized that she needed to go to a real doctor.




But how in the world could she afford a surgery that could cost her two years’ worth of pay? Marilou called Nancy into the office and assured her that it would not cost that much and that IDEA would help her out. Accompanied by IDEA’s nurse and some friends, Nancy went through with the surgery. A grapefruit sized tumor was removed and found to be benign. NO CANCER. After two months of rest, she returned to her job and her role as one of the leaders of IDEA’s deaf Church. She’s now recovered and in better health. Nancy is part of the IDEA Bohol Deaf Family, a family that watches out for one another.

Published Mon, Jan 21, 2019. Written by .



Want to know more about IDEA and our mission? Here are a few facts about IDEA you may not know:

1.IDEA stands for International Deaf Education Association.

2.IDEA was founded in 1985 by Dennis Drake, who is a Montana native that traveled to the Philippines and saw a need for the deaf community there.

3.The goal of IDEA is to provide academic, vocational, physical, spiritual, and economic opportunities for deaf children, adults, and families. Most parents of the deaf don’t have the resources to educate their deaf child because of their disability. Sometimes the parents view their deaf child as a punishment for something they did wrong. This is something IDEA is working on changing.

4. More than 500 deaf children are able to attend IDEA supported special education classes on the islands of Bohol and Leyte in the Philippines.

5.Many of the children that were in the early education programs are now adults and have families of their own. These deaf adults need jobs, so IDEA operates various businesses which provide employment to over 120 deaf men and women. These businesses also offer vocational training for deaf young people.



6.100% of your donations towards sponsorship go directly to the care and education of the students.

7.You can sponsor a deaf child through IDEA to provide supplies, education opportunities, and personal necessities they otherwise wouldn’t have available to them.

8.IDEA strives to help the deaf students understand who God is and His plan for their lives. We teach them that God understands their thoughts and hearts so they don’t even need to worry about language barriers.

9. IDEA has an active board both in the Philippines and in the US. They work together to create the best possible experience for not only the students, but also the staff in the Philippines and our international sponsors. 

10. IDEA staff go out and find deaf children throughout the Philippines who could benefit from attending an IDEA school. These kids most often wouldn't receive an education otherwise. 

11. IDEA provides free sign language classes to the local communities in the Philippines. They have taught family members of students, members of the local community, and local leaders. This helps the community to understand and communicate with the deaf students and graduates in their everyday lives.


We hope this helped you learn more about IDEA and our mission!  Your support allows us to keep providing education, jobs, ministry, and support to not only the students, but the deaf community as a whole in the Philippines.

Published Wed, Jan 09, 2019. Written by .


One of the businesses that supports IDEA in the Philippines is the Garden Cafe. IDEA has multiple businesses throughout the Philippines that not only provides support to the schools, but also jobs for the deaf community.

Garden Cafe is located in the heart of Tagbilaran City which is the capital of the island of Bohol in the Philippines. Over the past 24 years of operation, it has become a regular landmark in this city of nearly 200,000 people.

Most of the employees are deaf and some are graduates of IDEA schools. Considered an upscale restaurant, the air conditioned two story building looks very contemporary from the outside but holds a surprise for visitors on the inside.


Garden Cafe is actually an American Old West Restaurant / Museum. Dennis Drake, IDEA Founder, says that Filipinos have a difficult time getting out to visit other countries and other cultures so he decided to bring Montana to them. Dennis Drake is a Montana native and all of the authentic antiques displayed in the Garden Cafe are from his family and friends in Billings, Montana.


The food at the Garden Cafe is wonderful with the most extensive menu in the province. European, American, Chinese, and Filipino dishes blend together to meet the likes of all customers.

The upstairs houses the restaurant /museum portion. Not only does it have a true Old West atmosphere but it even has mounted horse saddles that customers can climb on and take a ride. Country music fills the air and a customer truly feels they are not in the Philippines anymore. It is like a mini vacation for the locals!


The exaggerated OLD WEST theme really makes Garden Cafe stick out in the otherwise tropical environment. The Cowboy theme was chosen to attract local townspeople in the City of Tagbilaran but has also become a favorite among tourists.The full size hand carved wooden horse serves as the main centerpiece of the patio.


You can read more and see more photos of the Garden Cafe on a recent blog feature.

Published Thu, Dec 20, 2018. Written by .



Visiting a local government office is often challenging for the deaf. Some deaf are brave enough to overcome the communication barrier with basic gestures while many decide to avoid the difficulties of public communication altogether. The unfortunate reality is that the communication gap isolates many Deaf from the public.


IDEA knows that more can be done to help the deaf communicate with the hearing public to obtain everyday services. IDEA is aiming to equip more hearing people with basic skills in sign language. IDEA’s community outreach programs teach sign language, and this year IDEA extended basic sign language classes to the Local Government Unit (LGU) of Jagna, Bohol. Teachers from the Special Education (SPED) Center in Jagna hosted two-hour classes for 5 days in December. More than 30 individuals attended the classes. Each department of the municipality of Jagna sent a representative including some barangay (a local district within the municipality) council members, members of Bureau of Fire Protection, and the president of the local women’s organization.

IDEA offered classes to the Municipality of Jagna because many of IDEA’s deaf beneficiaries are constituents of the town. Many deaf children come to Jagna from nearby towns to study at the Jagna SPED Center and live in IDEA Dormitory for the deaf.

Thank you to the NORFIL Foundation, Inc. for funding the sign language classes. With Jagna’s community leaders embracing sign language, IDEA is grateful to gain more advocates for the deaf.

Published Tue, Dec 11, 2018. Written by .

Deaf Education


In 1982, IDEA began its partnership with the Philippine Department of Education (DepEd) to establish special education classes for deaf students. To supplement limited government funding, IDEA provides dorm and classroom buildings, furniture, books, teacher salaries and training. Through hard work, we have established a unique combination of academic and social skills training.


IDEA supports around 500 deaf students in six elementary and two high school residential programs. Through our cooperation with DepEd, dormitories and classrooms are located on public school campuses. IDEA-trained teachers provide instruction to deaf children in Kindergarten (Prep) through 4th year high school. All students are trained in English, math, science, history, Filipino, health, values, art, P.E., and home economics. Additionally, high school students receive extensive vocational training.

Note: Our primary language of instruction is Philippine Sign Language. Our primary written language is English.


On the first day of school, our students arrive scared. They are surrounded by unfamiliar faces and language. Within a week, however, this fear is replaced by fascination and freedom. Why? They are immersed in sign language. They are guided by their teachers, classmates, and dorm mothers into a world of mutual understanding.


IDEA students arrive from mountain villages and small offshore island communities with no formal language. Typically, their family members communicate with them through “home sign” or simple gesture-based signs. Our first challenge is language development and socialization.

Before entering school, a deaf child’s social development has been severely delayed. Their parents are unable to express to them correct behavior and values. IDEA students learn social skills as they learn language. In the classroom, on the playground, and in the dormitory, they are constantly shown and taught how to get along with others. Older students provide mentoring to their younger schoolmates. Prep teachers are patient and careful to express positive classroom etiquette. Dorm mothers teach table manners and neatness. Each child is given chores and responsibilities in their dormitory homes. The child that enrolled in fear and confusion ends his first academic year in anticipation of returning to his friends and teachers after summer vacation.


As the students reach the upper grades they are introduced to more and more advanced social activities. The friendship bonds they create through living together in dormitories are unbreakable. School provides so many other activities for the kids outside of academics such as drama, dance, exercise classes, and sports.

The goal of IDEA is to help these deaf children and blind children find their place in society that will allow them fulfillment and productivity. The only route to achieve this objective is through education.