Open Ears is following a group of Sonova team members as they head to Haiti with the Hear The World Foundation. Michael Lumunsad is a Strategic Marketer at Advanced Bionics.
“Oh man, we’re stuck!” I yelled as our mighty little Toyota HiAce hit a gigantic puddle on the dirt road.
The rear wheels were spinning and our vehicle was sliding around in the mud. I looked out of the side window and it looked like we landed in a lake.
“Do we have a tow winch?” I asked John our fixer/translator/security guy.
“We don’t need a winch.” he said as he looked at me with a smile.Apparently, getting stuck in mud is a common thing for these guys. Our driver started rocking the car back and forth but wasn’t getting anywhere. The 2nd van stopped and started to assess our situation. The driver of the second van got into our van through the window opening like he were one of the Duke Brothers and took over driving duties. John was piling rocks underneath our rear tires while the rest of us in the van were enjoying the impromptu carnival ride.
Mohamed Khaldi jumped on the back of the van knowing that we needed more weight on the rear tires. Some local townsfolk who saw our predicament also started getting on the back of the van, but we were still not getting anywhere.
Kristen, our sign language interpreter, said “Maybe we need to start moving to the rear of the van.”
So just like in some old Laurel and Hardy slapstick comedy, we started shoving ourselves into the last row to give some more weight to the rear tires. To be honest, once I moved rearward the tires hooked up and we launched out of the mud. Thank you to Louisiana Famous Fried Chicken diet for helping me get out of a tough predicament.
We drove onward on the muddy road until we hit a group of the deaf students we visited two days ago. We were all at this empty piece of land to celebrate the ground breaking of their new student residence. The yet to be built residence would house 400 deaf students and allow them to be within walking distance of the academy. Besides the traditional ground breaking, the kids and school staff performed some fantastic songs and several speeches and prayers from students and faculty.
We then headed on our way to the school to perform hearing aid maintenance on students who were previously fitted by a previous Sonova team in October 2015. The team was also tasked to test and fit a bunch of students who were newly enrolled.
“Oh my God. She’s such a cutie!” Haley B. Kurzawa laughed, as she was fitting ear molds on a girl we affectionately called “Little M”.
Little M was enrolled into the academy only a few months ago. The academy’s faculty didn’t really know much about her past history, except she is around 7 years old, but due to malnutrition and other factors she is the size of a 4 or 5 year old child. She lacks hearing and speaking skills, but likes to make sounds.
Little M was a trooper. She’s super sweet and was patient waiting through all her testing and fitting. Our team loved spending time with her as she was super friendly and loved taking selfies and touching people’s hair. Reece Radford’s arm hair was especially interesting to Little M.
“Don’t start without me!” I told Haley and Jody Pogue as they were about to activate Little M’s new Phonak Naida Q30 UP hearing aids. My first ever experience of seeing someone hear for the first time was the prior day with Little G. He had a huge smile on his face when his hearing aids were finally turned on. I hoped Little M would get that too.
Little M’s reaction was exactly what we hoped for. She was startled at first but it quickly turned into a huge grin. This moment was the one many of us have wanted to experience. It’s one of the key reasons we volunteered for this humanitarian trip with Sonova. We’ve endured heat, humidity, biting insects, and some really bumpy roads to have direct impact on less fortunate children. Speaking on behalf of this Sonova team, I have to say that this trip has been everything we’ve wanted and more.
Michael Lumunsad is a Strategic Marketer who works at Advanced Bionics in Valencia, California.
He is Australian but everyone always asks, “What happened to your accent?” as he sounds American. He is passionate about not having to purchase an AAA membership, loves heckling UCLA fans, and enjoys mentoring students at the University of Southern California.