Hearing Aids and Bicycles: Hear Haiti Project With Hear the World

Greetings from Haiti! We are Samantha McKendrick and Marisa Breslin, blogging from the brightly colored picnic table at New Life Children’s Home in Port au Prince.

We were invited by Hear the World to participate in this amazing project known as Hear Haiti. Sam works for Phonak Canada in the Inside Sales Department and Marisa works for Phonak US as a Technical Support Audiologist. We are very excited to work alongside many other Sonova employees representing North America in this inspiring project.

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Some may wonder why we are giving out hearing aids when there are so many starving and sick children in the world. In a third world country like Haiti, many are already at a disadvantage surviving on less than $2 a day. For those with hearing loss, there is even more of a disadvantage as they are cast aside and sent to the back of the food line. However, if we think of it this way, we can give a bowl of rice and feed a child for a day, you can give him medicine and cure an ailment, but with the gift of hearing, you stand to change his life and the life of his family by providing him with access to communication.

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Our journey to Haiti has been fruitful and memorable in many ways. We had the great fortune of helping many children hear for the very first time as we programmed their devices and pressed the unmute buttons in the fitting software. The looks of wonder, amazement and sometimes confusion were a joy to witness. Even more amazing was watching them vocalize and having them hear themselves pronounce their own names. It was simply inspiring. To think of the doors access to hearing will open for these children and the added possibilities to their lives, even if it is only for environmental awareness, made this journey memorable and filled us with hope.

One day after the fitting sessions, we went to see where the children that we had been working with lived, and were surprised to find out that the house was a far distance away from the school. The children have to take a tap-tap (a “taxi” where everyone crams into the back and rides through the bumpy Haitian roads) to and from school everyday.

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We loved getting the opportunity to see where the children live and how they interact with each other outside of their school environment. They were much more comfortable with us and we felt almost like family. Before coming to Haiti, Team Phonak Canada helped to raise money to buy bicycles. Children had been asking for them to make their journey to and from school easier, as well as to run errands locally.

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After getting to know the kids over the previous three days, learning their stories and a bit of their personalities, the Bicycle Surprise was one of the most amazing, incredible experiences to witness. When we brought in the bikes the kids swarmed us with excitement and then all ran into a field across the road from the house to ride their 5 new bikes. We couldn’t help but get a bit emotional and could not stop smiling, thinking how proud we were of the team and so incredibly happy to think about how much joy we brought to the kids.

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Being Sonova team members for the Hear Haiti project has been a memorable and life changing experience, from giving the gift of hearing to giving the gift of bicycles!

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