The Auburn University Audiology Outreach in Guatemala Project recently completed its fifth annual trip to Guatemala. Over the past five years, their partnership with the Municipality of Guatemala City has grown deeper as they continue to serve the hearing needs of children enrolled in the 9 schools established for children at risk of being “ninos de la calle”—children of the street. Under the leadership of their Guatemalan partner, Mrs. Patricia Arzu, wife of the Mayor of Guatemala City and former First Lady of Guatemala, they continue to develop an ongoing hearing health care program for the 1900 children enrolled in these schools.
Our outreach program, to which ReSound donates hearing aids, has grown since its inception in 2009. Each successive year, the program has provided follow-up hearing tests to all children failing their school hearing screening and has provided hearing aids to children with educationally significant hearing loss.
During the most recent trip in May 2013, the volunteers spent the first three days headquartered at Los Potitas (The Little Ducks), a school for 2-6 year old street children. At this school, they screened the hearing of 52 three and four-year-old children and then tested the hearing of all the children who had failed the hearing screening administered by the teachers at the eight other schools serving these children. They identified numerous children with educationally significant hearing loss and delivered hearing aids to these children. As they do every year, they also tested the hearing of every child they had delivered hearing aids to in the past. Their hearing aids were cleaned, reprogrammed and replaced if needed. In one instance, they identified a four-year-old girl with a hearing loss that was undetected by her family. In 2009, our Auburn University Guatemala team found that this child’ s brother had a hearing loss, and he has continued to benefit from his hearing aids. Although the parents were disappointed that their young daughter also had a hearing loss, they were thankful that she will have the opportunity to use hearing aids to hear her teachers.
The remaining two days in Guatemala were spent at the School for the Deaf where they delivered new hearing aids to 17 children and 1 teacher. All of the children receiving new hearing aids this year were between 3 to 9 years of age and fifteen of the children had never been amplified in the past. These children will now be able to fully benefit from the educational programs of this school. While at the School for the Deaf, they also provided hearing aid checks and reprogramming to the 31 children who received hearing aids during the previous annual visits to Guatemala. All of these children received hearing evaluations and their hearing aids were cleaned, checked and reprogrammed. Also during this visit, the Auburn Audiology Team made and delivered 66 new ear molds that are now being used by the children who have received hearing aids during the past five years.
The last day working at the School for the Deaf was the official Mother’s Day in Guatemala, where all mothers are given the day off to be with their children. On this day, tears were shared with several mothers as their children heard for the first time. More than one mother said that the hearing aids their child received were the best possible Mother’s Day present.
Sandra Clark-Lewis, an audiologist at Auburn University and the leader of the outreach program, said, “An ancient monk once implored his followers to ‘Listen with the ear of the heart’. That is the phrase that summarizes the Guatemala experience for me. I watched our entire team focus on the needs of these children, and felt their compassion as they served them. In addition to helping these children, I believe we are helping educate our doctoral students in what I hope will be a lifelong involvement in compassionate outreach.”