In this Open Ears segment we’ll be following a group of Sonova team members as they head to Haiti with the Hear The World Foundation. Jenn Brinn is a digital marketer who works at Sonova e-Hearing Care in Nashville, Tennessee. She is passionate about technology, travel, coffee, documentaries, and her family.
On January 12, 2010, a catastrophic 7.0 magnitude earthquake hit the Caribbean country of Haiti, with the epicenter located only 16 miles from Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince. An estimated 3 million people were affected by the quake and it is estimated that more than a quarter million people perished. While Haiti has always been plagued with an overwhelming number of orphaned children, the number has doubled since the disaster, increasing the total to almost one million.
News of the tragedy quickly filled television screens and media outlets in the US. Celebrities held fundraisers and people donated money by texting a number on their phones. I remember it being an emotional and devastating moment, but then eventually, the buzz faded away.
But three years after the event, and still committed to the people of Haiti, the Hear the World foundation started HEAR HAITI, an initiative to help support and improve the lives of those living with hearing loss in Haiti, especially children orphaned by the 2010 tragedy.
In the past year and a half, more than 100 hearing aids have been donated and fitted to children and adults of the community, and Hear the World has provided audiology training to local residents in an effort to provide ongoing service with help in between trips. More than 30 Sonova employees, from the US and Canada, have traveled to Haiti to live out the mission of Hear the World—advocating equal opportunity and improved quality of life for people with hearing loss around the world.
I have the honor of joining the team from October 11 to 17, for the third HEAR HAITI trip. The group will consist of team members specialized in diagnostics, fitting, speech therapy, technical support, and administration and translation. We will focus on rechecking and validating children that were fit with hearing aids last year and perform first fittings on newly admitted students. There will also be extensive time spent on auditory and speech training as well as continued counseling on hearing aid use.
While the first priority of all service trips is to improve the hearing health of those in poverty, this year’s project will uniquely focus on developing deeper relationships with the community and becoming immersed in Haitian culture. The Hear the World Foundation can only continue to deliver sustainable solutions by understanding the everyday needs of the Haitian people (and their children) by becoming intimately familiar with their environment and daily life. It is the hope that by engaging with and providing services to local villages, the residents of this region will come to accept diversity in their communities and learn to appreciate the value of all of its people—including those with disabilities.
HEAR HAITI is a project by the Haiti Deaf Academy, which provides housing and education to deaf children living in the town of Leveque. The HEAR HAITI team will spend time further developing relationships with the teachers and caregivers of these children, who aim to change the lives of deaf children living in remote areas who are often vulnerable to abuse and neglect. The team has been busy fundraising to support the school by donating shoes, arts and craft supplies, outdoor sports equipment, raising money to be used for rent, medical supplies, and infrastructure to expand the campus.
If you have interest in supporting the children of the Haiti Deaf Academy, online donations can be made here.
In just a few days, the members of our 2015 HEAR HAITI team will step away from the luxuries of their world and step into the deprivation of the poorest country in the Americas. As human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world, but in being able to remake ourselves. In the spirit of Gandhi’s philosophy, we are setting out to BE the change we wish to see in the world, and we invite you to join us in the adventure.
Follow our journey here on Open Ears and on social media: