Friday, February 10, 2012

Today must be one of the happiest days in my life....

Rosica has a hearing problem - that's what I heard about the 6 year old student when I first came to Krou Yeung Centre (the school I am volunteering at the moment). Wanting to meet the girl I went during lessons into her classroom and, as it is tradition in Cambodia, the whole class got up and greeted me with a loud "Hello Teacher, how are you?". Only Rosica was still sitting down as she sits in the first row, was searching her backpack for something and obviously could not hear her surroundings even though she was wearing a hearing aid on her right ear. Rosica hears only very little on her right ear and even less on her left ear explained her teacher and that leaves her nearly deaf, as an outsider, in dangoures situations (e.g. she can't hear traffic approach) but for most it gives her problems to learn how to speak. So with being 6 years old Rosica can not speak properly.

Having a look at the hearing aid she was wearing I was right away convinced that there must be newer and better technology out there to be able to help the little girl to at least gain some of her hearing ability back. After some research I found out about a small NGO in Cambodia called 'All Ears Cambodia' ( who is specifically geared towards Cambodians with hearing problems. With the help of the principal of my school we got an appointment for Rosica with 'All Ears Cambodia' (AEC) in Phnom Penh and her parents went yesterday. The result is following: After a professional ear cleansing and proper hearing-test AEC determined that Rosica has a major hearing loss but no severe one. They measured her ear-channel to have an acustomed ear-piece manufactured overnight and will equip her today with 2 new state-of-the-art hearing aids for her left as well as her right ear (the old one turned out to be 9 years old). According to AEC, this will give Rosica up to 70% of her hearing ability back - which is just fantastic news and makes this day one of the happiest days in my life. Imagine only how much this will change Rosicas life going forward.

Once she is back in school on Monday we will be able to start one-on-one classes with teachers from our school to teach her how to speak properly, AEC is committed to perform ear-channel-measurements every 3 months so that we can ensure that she has proper ear-pieces (which is a major factor of her hearing ability) and we will re-finance her hearing-aid through her parents income so that she will be able to afford new hearing aids in the future. But formost I am just very happy that she will be able to hear which implies for her to be able to speak properly soon.

A bit more background on the above:
- It is important that Rosica has two hearing aids. In the beginning everybody thought that she can only hear on her right ear and not at all on her left - only her teacher realized that she can actually hear on her left ear as well. Apparently children growing up should always be equiped with 2 hearing aids as it can happen that hearing picks-up during growth.
- It is important that Rosica has regular check-ups on her hearing ability and adjustments of her hearing-aid-ear-piece. With her being only 6 years old, Rosica will still grow a lot as well as her ear-channel which then her ear-piece needs to be adjusted to her growth as the earpiece contributes majorly to her hearing ability.
- The 2 hearing-aids will cost together 900$ (incl. warrenty and 1 year of free check-ups and ear-piece adjustments), which is a, by 'All Ears Cambodia', heavily subsidised price as you can spend a fortune on hearing aids (there seem to be no limits but a good hearing aid from market leaders cost around 2,500$ a pop). With an average Cambodian year salary of 550$ her parents will not be able to afford the full 900$ so I will be supporting them financially. Her parents are though able to put some money on the side on a monthly basis, so the school principal and myself are planning to have Rosicas parents "pay back" the given amount on a monthly basis onto an account in Rosicas name. This will enable her to get new hearing aids in the future or have any repair-costs of the current hearing aids covered.

- Having traveled now for a bit and seen a couple of NGOs throughout my volunteering - I have to say that most of them confirm my perception. A lot a NGOs seem to spend money on unnecessary things (such as supreme housings for their employees, supreme office locations, high-end cars, expense benefits which can compete with the financial industry, unneccassary celebrations, and many more) and at the same time seem to have troubles to actually reach the people in need rather than just "talk". 'All Ears Cambodia' makes a different impression on me. It is a small NGO and without knowing the NGO in great detail, I can tell you one thing, it was awefully easy to set-up a appointment and according to the parents everything went very smooth once they got in. It looks like this is a NGO worthwhile to support as it reaches people in need directly and makes a true difference to their life. Just in case if you ever ask yourself where to give money to :-).

I am sure you will hear again about Rosica over the next couple of weeks.
So long...

P.S.: A big Thanks goes out to Ruben, who was supporting me on this and is actually supporting me on another "project" I am working on at the moment - for which we hopefully soon have good news as well !!

1 comment:

  1. Good work Joe! Go on and try to change the world... Try to improve the situation for those kids. If you only can change the life of one person, you're going to change the whole world for somebody! Keep going...

    Greetz Ruben