Renee’s three months volunteering experience in Malawi

Renee’s three months volunteering experience in Malawi

2016 got off to a great start. I was privileged with the opportunity to volunteer with Sound Seekers in Malawi for three months. The team at Sound Seekers, in the UK and in Malawi, was fantastic in preparing me for the trip and providing support throughout.

My time in Malawi was my first time in an African Country. I have previously worked in remote areas of Australia with limited resources and high incidences of poor ear and hearing health. I knew Malawi was going to be quite different, but felt my previous experiences helped to prepare me for what lay ahead.

My role was to work with the Audiology Officers and provide training, particularly with Paediatric patients (electrophysiology, VRA, Play Audiometry).   The biggest challenge I faced was my ability to refer Deaf patients on for other services due to the lack of resources available. My skills of adaptability and flexibility were definitely enhanced in this role.

Renee working at the audiology clinic  Renee, Louis and Prisca

There were many highlights to the experience. Working with a wonderful, dedicated group of clinicians (Malawian and international), learning about Malawian culture and a few words in Chichewa, meeting people from all over the world, and having the opportunity to explore the country on weekends.

This experience has opened my eyes to the principals of Global Health and introduced me to a Country and Continent I knew little about, whilst making some amazing friends along the way. I would definitely recommend volunteering to anyone who is seeking a sense of adventure and both personal and professional growth.

I would like to thank Sound Seekers, Dr. Courtney Caron and the listeners at BBC Radio 4 for all their support.

Renee Garuccio, Australia

Renee getting ear impressions for Happy

Bankside Gallery Event

Bankside Gallery Event

sound seekers gallery eventBankside Gallery has kindly offered to host a fundraising event for Sound Seekers on Thursday 12th May 2016 from 6-8pm.

The exhibition is on “Re Original Prints”, which feature new works by leading printmakers. Michael Barratt, the President of the Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers (RE), will be giving a speech. Bankside Gallery has generously offered to donate 20% of all sales on the night to Sound Seekers.

Traditional Malawi music will be performed by our Malawian MSc students and there will also be a silent auction. 

Please follow the link to our event to get your free tickets

Thuvaraka’s two weeks in Cameroon

Thuvaraka’s two weeks in Cameroon

I recently spent 2 weeks volunteering in Cameroon Mbingo Baptist Hospital with my colleague & friend. I spent these 2 weeks working in the ENT department supporting the audiology technicians and also providing a training workshop in line with the WHO guidelines. Soundseekers were amazing in supporting me through this experience. Mbingo hospital is beautiful and all the people there are extraordinary. I enjoyed my whole time there, especially interacting with the children from the deaf school.

Volunteer in Cameroon, Africa in audiology hospitalDuring my week Amina and I were helping the ENT Audiological technicians with the testing and providing amplification  to adults and children. It was wonderful to see how hearing aids were helping them. The smiles and words after they started hearing with hearing aids was reassuring. We also spent time looking through inventory and making sure that this clinic had the correct material  and equipment to keep running well.

During my second week I was part of a team facilitating a training workshop on primary ear and hearing care produced by the World Health Organisation to nurses and teachers of surrounding health centres and schools . This was an amazing week of training and one I would facilitate again. Not only were we able to share knowledge and practices about ear care, we were also able to make sessions very interactive and innovative . We got a clear idea about participants thoughts and about how change can be implemented and/or evoked in their communities.

Volunteer in Cameroon audiology hospitalOverall these 2 weeks were amazing and I would definitely go back. Soundseekers are an incredible organisation who are dedicated in helping and supporting people in Cameroon. I am so grateful that they sent me here and I would definitely recommend any health care professionals to go and to be a part of this wonderful charity.

Thuvaraka Chandrapavan, Cameroon 2016

Sound Seekers celebrates 21 years of life-changing hearing care

Sound Seekers celebrates 21 years of life-changing hearing care

PRESS RELEASE: Sound Seekers, a UK charity dedicated to helping deaf people in some of the world’s poorest communities, celebrates its 21st anniversary this month. Coinciding with ‘International Week of the Deaf 2015′, Sound Seekers is taking the opportunity to celebrate its birthday and to thank its supporters and patrons – or ‘hearing heroes’ – which include Specsavers, Prince Andrew (HRH Duke of York), Big Brother 2013 winner Sam Evans, and many more.

Extending this celebration, Sound Seekers is this week inviting anyone who lives and works within the deaf community to nominate their own #HearingHeroes, whether they be an organisation, audiologist, nurse, patron, supporter, friend, or parent. The campaign provides an opportunity to thank those people who make a huge difference to the lives of deaf people around the world.

With an estimated 100,000 people who have been helped by the organisation, Sound Seekers continues delivering practical solutions to children and adults with hearing loss in developing countries, helping them to realise their ambitions of achieving an education or finding employment. Although these are basic expectations in the UK and most Western communities, audiology issues are not only considered a disability in many communities across Africa, but are also associated with other stigmas such as witchcraft, leaving deaf people shunned by society with little or no prospect of leading a normal life.

Working in partnership with local organisations and institutions, Sound Seekers initiates sustainable and cost-effective projects which advance the understanding of deaf people’s needs and enable children and adults to avoid or help overcome the effects of deafness. They also improve access to health services, education and social support. One of Sound Seekers’ most recent projects in Malawi enabled over 7000 people with hearing loss to be treated, with over 2000 adults and children being fitted with hearing aids for the first time.

Sound Seekers’ focus on providing sustainable support has also led to their involvement in the training of audiologists in countries such as Zambia, where there is only one qualified audiologist for the entire population of 15 million people, and Malawi, a country of 16 million, where there are no audiologists at all. This September, Sound Seekers has given four Malawians the opportunity to study for an MSc in Audiology at Manchester University. If successful, the students will be the first qualified Audiologists in Malawi, with the knowledge and expertise to successfully treat patients on the ground.

Emma Judge, Sound Seekers CEO, comments: “We are extremely excited to kick off ‘International Week of the Deaf’ with a joint initiative with one of our #HearingHeroes supporters, Specsavers. Specsavers Hearing Centres all across the UK are holding an entire month of activities to support Sound Seekers by helping us to raise money and awareness, as well as collecting old and unwanted hearing aids. These hearing aids will then be cleaned and refurbished by us, before redistribution to hearing-impaired people across six countries in Africa – a fantastic initiative that could make a huge difference to so many people.”

“While we are incredibly proud of our achievement to date, we still have much work to do,” continued Judge. “Like any charity, Sound Seekers relies solely on donations and fundraising to support our activities. We are extremely grateful to all those who have supported us over the last 21 years, and to those who continue to do so.”
The #HearingHeroes Campaign

Get involved with the #HearingHeroes campaign by nominating your #HearingHeroes on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, to thank the organisations, audiologists, nurses, patrons, supporters, friends or parents who have made a difference to you. You can also let us know who you’re saying thanks to, or find out more information about Sound Seekers, by finding us at Facebook.com/soundseekersorg, Tweeting us @SoundSeekers, or searching for Sound_Seekers on Instagram.

For more information on this press release email help@sound-seekers.org.uk

Big Brother winner Sam Evans heads new BBC Radio 4 Appeal

Big Brother winner Sam Evans heads new BBC Radio 4 Appeal

Big Brother winner Sam Evans is this week set to present a BBC Radio 4 appeal on behalf of UK charity Sound Seekers, calling for donations to help improve hearing care in some of the poorest communities of the developing world. Evans, who is severely deaf, has worked with the charity since 2014, helping to raise funds and awareness to support people with hearing loss, particularly children, in countries across Africa.

“I had the opportunity to visit Malawi with Sound Seekers last year and witnessed first-hand the devastating effects of suffering from deafness in the developing world,” commented Evans. “Having received all of the help and support I needed growing up severely deaf in the UK, I was shocked and saddened to see how different things are elsewhere in the world. Adults with hearing loss in developing countries across Africa are often unable to work, whilst children are isolated and ignored. I am extremely proud to work with Sound Seekers, who are really making a difference to these peoples’ lives, and building a future for audiology where previously there has been no hearing care provision at all.”

The charity is hoping that the BBC Radio 4 appeal will help raise funds to support activities like its ongoing project in Malawi, where the Sound Seekers team is currently working with the Government of Malawi to build the country’s first comprehensive audiology service. “We are very grateful to Sam for presenting this appeal on behalf of our organisation,” said Sound Seekers CEO, Emma Judge. “We have many projects which have the potential to change the lives of people with hearing loss, including increasing access to education for those excluded from school because they are deaf, however we are entirely dependent on funding to make these changes a reality. We are hopeful that people who hear the appeal will begin to understand the severity of the problem for developing countries, and will help us in providing the vital hearing care that is so desperately needed.”

The appeal is due to air for the first time on BBC Radio 4 on Sunday 13th September, at 7.55am, and is also available online via the Radio 4 website. Donations can also be made by calling 0800 404 8144, but only after the radio appeal has aired. Donations made before the radio appeal will not be received by Sound Seekers. Alternatively you can write a cheque to Sound Seekers and send it to Freepost, BBC Radio 4 Appeal, marking the back of the envelope ‘Sound Seekers’.

For more information on this press release email help@sound-seekers.org.uk

Sound Seekers project brings hope to Malawi

Sound Seekers project brings hope to Malawi

Sound Seekers, a national charity dedicated to helping deaf people in the world’s poorest communities, has recently returned from a week’s visit to Malawi, delivering vital aid to deaf communities. The visit also allowed the team to manage a number of ongoing projects and initiatives, and receive critical updates regarding their recent campaign with Specsavers Hearing Centres.

Sound Seekers’ current projects in Malawi are expected to provide hearing aids to around 2,000 adults and children, along with treating around 7,000 people for other causes of hearing loss. A further 3,500 people will be educated on ear care and hearing loss prevention, reflecting the charity’s commitment to providing sustainable aid and long-term solutions that will continue to benefit communities long after aid workers have returned to the UK. One of the biggest projects, however, is the construction of the country’s first comprehensive audiology service, based at Blantyre’s largest hospital. In addition to constructing the hearing unit, which is expected to serve over 10,000 people in three years, the charity is training African staff to identify and treat hearing loss so that deaf people can go to school and find work.

“We were amazed to see the developments since our last visit,” commented Lucy Carter, CEO, Sound Seekers. “With the help of some fantastic partner organisations and the Government here in Malawi, we are seeing real progress. Along with seeing the new audiology unit take shape, we were able to revisit children who received hearing aids and cochlear implants last year and watch them thriving. One of the children we met only months ago now has such good hearing that he is able to translate for his mother! It’s great to see the benefits of our services extending far beyond just those we are able to meet.”

The visit also provided an opportunity to get an update on the charity’s joint campaign with Specsavers Hearing Centres, initiated earlier this year. The campaign has so far seen thousands of old and unwanted hearing aids collected from Specsavers stores across the UK, before being cleaned, repurposed and redistributed to people in Africa with hearing loss.

“It is a very exciting time for Sound Seekers, as a number of our campaigns have come to fruition and are starting to make a real difference,” continued Carter. “Our recent partnership with Specsavers Hearcare has been hugely successful, and it is immensely rewarding to witness first-hand the benefits of the campaign. Our combined efforts are expected to change the lives of nearly 400,000 people in the community with hearing loss, and we are confident that we are well on the way to building a promising future for audiology in Malawi.”

Specsavers founder, Dame Mary Perkins, also commented: “Living in the UK, we are extremely lucky to have access to such robust hearing healthcare programmes. Overseas, charities like Sound Seekers are providing vital care to those who are not as fortunate. We are delighted to be supporting the great work that Sound Seekers provides in countries like Malawi.”

For more information on this press release email help@sound-seekers.org.uk

Congratulations to Ann-Marie on her 50 swims fundraising challenge

Congratulations to Ann-Marie on her 50 swims fundraising challenge

Ann-Marie who set herself a goal of completing 50 swims as a way of celebrating her 50th birthday last year has fundraised an amazing £425 for Sound Seekers, Here’s what she old us about her experience:

“I chose Sound Seekers after searching the web for a charity specialising in working with deaf people. Deafness is invisible and I wanted to raise awareness of the challenges faced by deaf people and the steps that can be taken to reduce the impact.

I contacted Sound Seekers by email and received a quick response from Lucy with more information, which confirmed to me that I had found the right charity. Throughout the year the Sound Seekers team kept in touch with me and took an interest in my progress.

Friends have commented on how worthwhile the work that Sound Seekers do is, so as well as raising some funds my objective of raising awareness has also been met.

The longest event and biggest single challenge was the Coniston End to End swim, a distance of 5.25 miles in Coniston Water.

My first event was the Loony Dook at South Queensferry on New Years Day when I wore an outfit inspired by Ursula from the Little Mermaid and was accompanied by my son-in-law as Ariel.

fourth_bridge-300x225

inthewater

start

lookingback

There were a lot of training swims in the pool and some lovely swims in good scenery outdoors over the year. In May, I put my floral hat on and went for a swim at Achmelvich Bay near Lochinver in the North West Highlands. The water temperature was about 11C that day.

One of my favourite days involved swimming in all 10 pools run by Edinburgh Leisure in 1 day. I started before 6am at the Royal Commonwealth Pool and finished about 12 hours later at Drum Brae Leisure Centre. I swam over 11km and was accompanied in the final pool by my 3 year old granddaughter, her aunt drove me from pool to pool which let me eat and drink between swims.

There were foreign swims too in Montenegro (very rainy) and Egypt (very sunny).

The build up to the Coniston Water swim included a number of open water swims in the spectacular scenery of the Lake District and Loch Lomond.

On the day of the “big swim” the conditions were good and the atmosphere at the event was very encouraging. I felt a mix of excitement and apprehension, hoping that my build up had prepared me for the event. It was a well-organised event with good briefings and excellent safety cover. There were large markers in the water and feeding/drinks stations along the route, which allowed me to break it up into “lengths”.

It did not take long to settle into the swim, I had completed 2 and 3 miles training swims in Coniston Water so had visual points of reference to look out for. The safety canoes and feeding station volunteers created a safe and friendly environment on the water and before long I was eating a jelly baby and drinking some water at the 1st boat.

A piece of banana tasted wonderful in comparison with the water we were swimming in at 2.5 miles. It was heartening to think that we were approaching half way and I felt really happy.

One of my friends was helping out at the final feeding station located at about 4.5 miles. I don’t think everyone agreed with my response when she asked me how I was finding it at this point, which was a cheery “It is fun and there’s less than a mile to go!”

In the final section we had to contend with large sections of weed that got tangled around your body. Fortunately I had plenty of energy to adapt my stroke and reduce the effect of this. With the finish in sight and I found myself kicking a little more enthusiastically and was delighted to be able to stand up and walk out smiling.

5.25 miles completed in 3 hours and 9 minutes and I felt really good, even as I collected my bag I was thinking that a longer swim could be an option in 2015.”

We are so grateful for Ann-Marie’s support and well done with your challenge!

If you are feeling inspired and would like to take on a challenge by yourself or with a team, why don’t you check out  our running and challenge events to get some ideas.

An interview with work experience student Nuur who spent a week with Sound Seekers

An interview with work experience student Nuur who spent a week with Sound Seekers

lucy_and_nuurNuur, a student at Doncaster College spent a week doing work experience at Sound Seekers. Originally from Somalia and hard of hearing, we interviewed him on his last day with us:

Were you born with hearing loss or did you acquire it when you got older?

Nurr was named ‘person of the day’, which consisted of him wearing a plastic crown and posing for a photo!

As I was growing up my hearing got worse. When I was one, I got an ear infection. After three/four years I couldn’t hear anything. I was 10 years old when I got two hearing aids. My father was doing business in Italy so was able to get me some hearing aids. There was no audiology support in Somalia at that time. When I first got the ear infection, the doctor just gave me injections to relieve the pain.

What support did you have in Somalia/Kenya with your hearing loss?

I had no support in Somalia or Kenya. There were no audiology services out there. The only thing I had was my hearing aids and I didn’t do a lot of socialising.

Tell us what it was like growing up in Somalia/Kenya with hearing loss

Going to school in Somalia was difficult because of the bullying. They called me names, bullied me because of my hearing loss. It was a harsh environment. In school I didn’t wear my hearing aids because of the bullying, I used to hide them. It was difficult because people talked about me, they grouped around me and I felt embarrassed and humiliated.

When the Civil War was happening it was dangerous, a lot of bullets, you didn’t know when you were going to get hit. You didn’t know how to get away from it, you felt like you were stuck. Kenya was better than Somalia, more peaceful.

One day, my family and I were fleeing Somalia. In order to get out the city where we lived, you have to go through roadblocks that were manned by armed groups (militia). Every roadblock is manned by different militia, and each are loyal to different warlords. You could not get through to the next roadblock without paying an exit fee or bribing the militia. We stopped at one of these roadblocks and were singled out, searched and our money and valuables were taken. I was standing right next to my family when I heard someone shouting “who is he talking to”, without realising he was referring to me. I then suddenly felt a heavy impact on my right ear. When I regained consciousness, I found the world in total silence and I had an excruciating pain in my ear. I did not know what had happened, but after we reached a safe place, my family explained to me how one of the militia mistook my hearing aid for a spying device and hit me over the head with the butt of his gun. He assumed I was in contact with rival militia and was ready to execute me over something he had never seen before. My family had to explain to the militia leader that I was deaf and was using a hearing device to help me hear and that I was no threat to them. Since then I spent most of my time hearing nothing, not knowing what was happening around me and in total fear of encountering militias.

Did you know anyone else in Somalia/Kenya with hearing loss?

There were some people who were deaf, children and grown ups. No one had hearing aids. They were amazed that I was wearing hearing aids. The hearing aids helped me although there was a lot of background noise. If it wasn’t for the hearing aids I would struggle to communicate. No one in my family can do sign language, the country didn’t know about it back then, it is a different world now.

When/why did you come to the UK?

I came to the UK when I was 27 to get better hearing support. I didn’t get any hearing support in Somalia or Kenya so my parents thought that my life and health would improve in England. When I first moved to England my eyes opened, it was impressive. It is a different world. I would go back to Kenya to visit my family but I wouldn’t live there again.

What are you doing now?

I am at Doncaster College doing IT and it is helping me obtain some certificate. Doncaster is nice; I have made a few deaf friends but I can only do basic sign language.

What are you hoping to achieve?

To become an IT Technician.

Had you heard of Sound Seekers before you started your work experience?

I had never heard of Sound Seekers. The college told me about it.

Have you enjoyed working here this week?

It has been interesting working here; I have enjoyed it a lot.

What have you enjoyed the most?

It is a friendly environment, there are nice people. Sorting out the hearing aids was interesting, they need a project like that in Africa, especially Somalia.

The making of a blockbuster, Hollywood are you ready?

The making of a blockbuster, Hollywood are you ready?

Lucy tells us about bringing Big Brother winner Sam Evans on board and a fantastic trip to Malawi

Ever since I joined Sound Seekers in 2012, I thought that the charity could benefit from an injection of glitterati. Hearing loss and deafness in sub-Saharan Africa is not the most fashionable of causes, after all. So when I discovered that the 2013 winner of UK Big Brother, Sam Evans, was not only a young deaf man who wore hearing aids, but also had a whiff of Harry Styles about him, I was hot on his trail. And so it was that in January 2014, the Sound Seekers team met Sam in London. We plied him with biscuits and hot drinks and named him our ‘person of the day’, which basically consisted of him wearing a plastic crown and us all posing for a photo (see below).

Photo #1So now that we ‘had’ Sam Evans, what were we going to do with him? Here was a young, popular public figure with hearing loss, who wanted to help us in some way. I know, I thought, let’s make a film! We pencilled ‘make film with Sam Evans in Sierra Leone’ in the diary for November.

As November drew closer, the idea of making a film in Sierra Leone was called into question firstly by the Ebola outbreak and also by the small fact of still not having anyone to actually make the film (other than me and my iPhone). We decided to save the Sierra Leone film for happier times, and to take Sam to Malawi instead. I pressed ahead with finding someone who could make an amazing film for hardly-any-money-at-all.

Step forward Georgie Weedon and David Alexander from Gingerwink Films (https://www.gingerwinkfilms.com/). They fitted the bill perfectly – not only were they professional filmmakers, but they had experience making films in Africa and they liked playing Bananagrams. Malawi, here we come!

Photo #2If you are a keen follower of Sound Seekers, you will have noticed that our activities in Malawi have ramped up a few gears over the past year. We now have an expatriate Audiologist, Dr Courtney Caron, working full time at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital (‘Queen’s’) in Blantyre. The small audiology team, who have had at most one year’s formal training each, are deriving tremendous benefit from Courtney’s leadership of their department, as of course are the patients. Over the next four years, Sound Seekers will sponsor two Malawians to train in London as the country’s first ever Audiologists (see Lucy’s blog post “Malawian women who will lead their country’s audiology service”), and we will build and equip an audiology clinic at Queen’s. At the end of the project, Malawi will have its first comprehensive, government run audiology service, led by two qualified Malawian Audiologists. This is big news for us, and what we would like to be doing in every country if we had the capacity. No shortage of film fodder then!

A UK Big Brother winner in Malawi was big news. We were inundated with requests for interviews with Sam for newspaper and television pieces. I appeared alongside Sam on Malawi breakfast television, which was a much bigger deal for me than for him, obviously. But I kept my cool and think I managed to come across as not dissimilar to Susanna Reid. We also managed to meet up with some other Big Brother contestants, but this time from Big Brother Africa. Fatima Nkata was a Malawian contestant on Big Brother Africa in 2013 and she positively embraced Sam’s visit and Sound Seekers’ mission in Malawi. She even invited the great and good from Malawi’s media scene to come and meet Sam at an exclusive soiree held at our hotel. Thanks Fatima!

Photo #3
Sam Evans with Sam Banda,
a Malawian journalist who wrote a story about him in The Daily Times
But hang on, weren’t we supposed to be making a film? Ah yes, the film…

We worked Sam pretty hard, but in return believe that he had a very eye-opening, once in a lifetime experience. I think all of us wonder at some point or another how our lives would have turned out if we had been born somewhere very different. In Sam’s case, his experiences in Malawi gave him a more vivid illustration of this than many people are ever exposed to. And of course, selfishly, we are hoping that seven days of ‘realising how lucky I am’ means that Sam will be a powerful ambassador for Sound Seekers’ work in Malawi and beyond for a long time to come.

Photo #4The harsh reality is that if Sam had been born in Malawi, with his level of hearing loss, it’s possible that he never would have gone to school, which would of course have impacted his chances of earning a living and leading an independent life. Firstly, his parents might not have realised that he was deaf, they might have just thought he was stupid or disobedient. Secondly, even if they had realised he was deaf, they might not have known what educational opportunities exist in Malawi for deaf children, or indeed that it was possible to educate a deaf child at all. Thirdly, even if they did know about the small number of schools for deaf children, Sam would not have been guaranteed a place since most of the schools do not accept children over the age of 6, and demand for places far outstrips the number available.

It’s true that Sam could have gone to a mainstream school, however with severe hearing loss and no access to hearing aids or speech language therapy, it is unlikely that he would have survived long in classes of 60-70 pupils in classrooms with poor acoustics. If Sam had not managed to access any schooling at all, it is unlikely he would ever have learnt either to speak properly or to use sign language. It is not an uncommon fate for deaf people in sub-Saharan African to reach adulthood with no way of communicating with those around them, thus leading extremely isolated lives with no opportunity to develop their minds.

Over the course of the week, Sam met many deaf and hearing impaired Malawians, none of whom have had access to the kinds of services that have been available to him in Wales all of his life. Some of those he met have already benefited from Sound Seekers’ work in Malawi, such as Happy, Joyce and Richard. These encounters will feature in the film, which by the way is going to be called ‘Hear in Malawi’ (genius title).

Photo #5

Happy’s story  (left)  is one that we love to tell, and that’s not just because of his cool name. Happy is a little boy with hearing loss who struggled for several years to do well in his mainstream school. In fact he didn’t do well at all; he remained in the same class for three years. Earlier this year, however, Happy was finally fitted with hearing aids at Queen’s, by Courtney and her team. Sam learnt that when Happy returned to school wearing his hearing aids, some of his fellow pupils threw rocks at him or removed the hearing aids from his ears and ran home with them. Courtney and her Audiological Assistant, Mwanaisha, travelled to Happy’s school in Thyolo District and spoke to Happy’s teachers and classmates about how important it is for Happy to wear his hearing aids. Once his peers left him alone, Happy was finally able to concentrate in class and now that he could hear, actually learn something! He has finally moved up a class and on the day we met him, the expression on his face certainly lived up to his name. There are thousands more Happys across Malawi, with the roll-out of our project we hope to be able to help many more of them.

Photo #6
As a nine year old girl and a fifteen year old boy, Joyce and Richard (right)  may not appear to have much in common. Both of them, however, became profoundly deaf very suddenly a few years ago – Richard due to the medication used to treat malaria, and Joyce after she was ill with mumps. Too deaf to benefit from hearing aids, if Joyce and Richard had been in the UK, they would have been eligible for cochlear implant surgery as soon as possible after losing their hearing, in order to give them the best chance of maintaining their speech and their ability to function in a hearing world.
In Malawi, however, no surgeon is trained to do cochlear implant surgery, and even if there were, the cost of the operation and device would be far beyond the reach of Joyce & Richard’s families. So it was a serendipitous mix of being in the right place at the right time, chance meetings and a very generous donation that led to British cochlear implant surgeon, David Strachan, agreeing to implant both Joyce and Richard in October this year. Neither David nor MED-EL (the company which donated the devices) would have agreed to the initiative if they were not satisfied that Joyce and Richard would have access to the necessary rehabilitative support after their devices were switched on. And who was going to provide these services? You guessed it, the Sound Seekers team in Blantyre, alongside our close colleagues and partners at ABC Hearing Clinic, 150 miles away in Lilongwe (Joyce lives closer to Blantyre and Richard to Lilongwe).

Photo #7When Sam met Joyce and Richard at their homes, they were both awaiting the switch-on of their cochlear implants (which will happen by the end of the year), therefore they were not yet benefiting from them. It is going to be fascinating tracking their progress, via Courtney and her team, after the switch-on and as they re-join the hearing world. Just by spending a short time with them, we got a taste of how frustrating their lives must have been over the last few years. Unable to hear their own voices, let alone what other people are saying to them, both of them have almost completely stopped talking.  Because they lost their hearing so rapidly they are not good at lip reading, nor have they had any sign language lessons. While Richard can read and write Chichewa, Joyce lost her hearing at an age when she was only just beginning to gain confidence in reading and writing and therefore writing messages to her is of limited usefulness. In general, life seems to go on over their heads and it is no wonder that both of their mothers reported that they had behavioural problems. One year from now, how different we hope their lives will be.

‘Hear in Malawi’ will feature Sam’s encounters with Happy, Joyce and Richard, and much more besides. There will be laughter, there will be tears, and there will be a big ball of wax which Mwanaisha removed from Sam’s ear. I hope that I have piqued your interest in seeing the film, when it’s finished… Hollywood, are you ready?

  • Sam Evans is raising money for the Sound Seekers ‘Hear in Malawi’ appeal, which will go to establishing Malawi’s first comprehensive, government-led audiology service. We would really appreciate your support – please donate viahttps://www.justgiving.com/Sam-Evans13/ or text EVAN74 £2 / £5 / £10 to 70070. Every pound you give will be matched by the UK Government (via UK Aid), doubling the value of your donation and helping Sound Seekers to change the lives of twice as many deaf people.
  • If you are interested in screening ‘Hear in Malawi’ at your local community centre/school/deaf club, please email help@sound-seekers.org.uk
  • Gingerwink Films launched their education programme during this trip by leading a film workshop for Malawian university students in Lilongwe. You can read more about it here: https://tinyurl.com/kn3or7z
  • To see Sam and Emily’s interview on breakfast TV in Malawi, visit: https://tinyurl.com/lpruq6j
Page 5 of 7« First...34567