Bringing the Gift of Sound to Children in the Dominican Republic

ReSound friend, Dusty Potter, President of Ear Level Communications, recounts his recent mission trip to the Dominican Republic to fit hearing impaired children with donated ReSound hearing aids.

Dusty Potter in the Dominican RepublicWe were able to fit about 90 children with about 170 hearing aids in just 3 days’ time. Most of the hearing instruments dispensed, and accompanying batteries were donated by GN ReSound prior to the trip. This enabled these children to receive highly functioning hearing instruments, and we can return and reprogram them as their needs change. I never get over just how incredible it is to give someone the gift of hearing for the first time. Every time, it is incredible to see a child light up upon hearing their first sounds, and the reaction (and usually tears) of the parents hearing their children say their first words.

This trip was especially rewarding, as this time we were working at CAES school for the deaf- a truly remarkable place. Arriving at CAES, the first thing you notice is that it seems extremely quiet for how many children you see running around. The smiles and quick hand movements show how excited the students are to have visitors that look so different.  Along with the children are several adults, some of them are speaking and others are signing. We are introduced to Jose Montilla, the founder of this institute.

Jose used to fix shoes for a living. He and his family were able to use this skill to feed themselves and send him to university. It wasn’t much, but at least it put food on the table. One day a young deaf mute came to him and asked him to repair his shoes for free. Jose conveyed to this young boy that he had to eat and he couldn’t do it for free. The young boy had nothing to give him, so Jose decided that he would teach him how to repair his own shoes. The next day the young boy returned with three of his friends, who were also deaf. The next day 5, and the next day 10. This was the beginning of his school for the deaf. During his story I couldn’t help but feel that this very unassuming man was not only bright, but brimming with compassion.

As more and more people came to Jose and he began to realize the needs of the deaf community in San Pedro, he needed a space. He was able to use a small piece of land and meet with students in the shade of some trees. They then built a shack so that they could study out of the elements. Because there was no electricity and no money to buy candles, they decided to teach the children how to make them. The children would make the candles for the class room and sell them to help support the school.

One day, while in Santo Domingo he saw an advertisement for one of the main private schools for Deaf children. Contacting them and showing them the school they quickly wanted to help. They contacted some of their supporters at the U.S. Embassy and with the Japanese government. The U.S. Embassy donated the funds to buy the materials and build the main school house, while the Japanese government donated the funds to build the technical school, and another government agency donated some computers and the school and the community did further fundraising to buy more computers giving them a large enough lab to get approved by the local university as a training center.

The public schools in San Pedro and all around the Dominican Republic don’t want deaf children and turn them away. As more and more people heard about Jose’s school, they would send him more and more unwanted deaf children. Now this school serves the entire East side of the Dominican Republic. With the little resources that he had he refused to turn these children away. “If you have a loaf of bread and five people are hungry, you share it between them. If you have that same loaf of bread, but 100 are hungry, you share that loaf of bread with all of them,” he said.

To be continued.  Check back tomorrow for the conclusion of Dusty Potter’s story.

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