Fire Puts School for the Deaf in Desperate Need

Three years ago my in-laws, Doug and Peggy Combes, moved down to Mexico to work at a school for the deaf called Rancho Sordo Mudo (RSM). It was and is an absolute passion project for them. They raise their own funding to support themselves down there, and pour their lives into these kids that many consider disabled.

Peggy used to do interpreting for the deaf when I was young, and while LSM (Mexican Sign Language or “Lengua de Señas Mexicana”) is quite different from ASL (American Sign Language), she has picked it up quite well. She helps with the administration of the school, and is also a floater filling in wherever she’s needed including in classrooms. Everyone there tends to have many roles, often more than would be reasonable to expect of a single person, but they do it because making sure that the deaf children of Mexico can receive a quality education is important to them.

Doug didn’t know any sign language when he moved there, or at least not much. His original plan was to maintain the grounds and equipment, something that the school was in serious need of, as many of the buildings were starting to really show signs of neglect, including things like leaky roofs on dorms. He soon found himself teaching autoshop though. At first completely through an interpreter, but now he’s able to do much of the communicating on his own.

He doesn’t just give a cursory look at mechanics like many people imagine or experience in their own autoshop. The small group of boys that he taught over the last two years had the chance to completely build a ratrod from the ground up. They learned how engines work and how maintain and repair them, as well as learning how to weld, torch, do body work, and even paint. At the end of the class, a generous donor allowed each student to receive their own starter kit of tools. These deaf boys that have graduated from Doug’s class will be able to build a life for themselves and support themselves in this way should they choose.

And that’s really what RSM does. It gives these deaf kids a chance at a life and a future where they can not only be self sufficient, but have some of the choices and options that many of us simply take for granted.


This is the finished ratrod and some of Doug's students. Left to right: Irvin, Jesus, Isaac, Eliezer
This is the finished ratrod.
Left to right: Evern, Jesus, Easock, Eleazer

Unfortunately, on Friday July 22nd, a brush fire burned parts of the ranch. I know for sure that it destroyed a motor home, trailer, a business building, and the auto shop building where Doug taught. The shop was a complete loss along with all the tools, equipment, spare parts, and even the shop truck. Much of the equipment there was Doug’s personal equipment amassed over the years when he was a mechanic and fabricator. The loss is massive.

The Auto Shop burning down.
The Auto Shop burning down.

We’ve started a GoFundMe page to try to raise some money to help rebuild and purchase the necessary equipment for the start of the new school year. We set the goal at $30,000, which is actually only a fraction of what is needed, but will help them get the basics. If you can help in any way, please do. I’d be personally very grateful. One hundred percent of all funds raised will be used to rebuild the shop and purchase tools and equipment, unless we happen to raise many times our goal, in which case all the extra funds will be used to fund the running of the school.

I know that many of you might run your own companies or be part of bigger companies. If you want to make a larger donation, whether as an individual or a company, please contact me and I can help facilitate a direct donation and getting the necessary letter for you since the school is a 501c3. I’ll be happy to keep you as anonymous as you like or to shout a thank you from the hills (or at least from social media or my blog…although for the right size donation I’m sure I could be convinced to climb a hill or two).