It seems I’ve caught a serious case of the travel bug since my very meaningful and emotional trip to the Philippines in late 2013. It turns out that journey with the Starkey Hearing Foundation (SHF) was just the beginning of an intense period of global travel.
My November/December trip to The Philippines was part of a humanitarian mission whose timing came shortly after Typhoon Haiyan struck. Our goal was to fit as many hearing-impaired children with free hearing-aids as possible. I’m proud to say there are now 5,000+ children who have regained hearing, thanks to the work of the Starkey team.
But our mission didn’t end there. My next stop was a trip to Haiti in January. Even four years after the tremors that took more than 100,000 lives, residents are still dealing with the after-effects of that devastating earthquake. The tent cities still stand, though just a fraction of the tens of thousands erected after the disaster. But life in Haiti is a struggle to survive — for some it is nearly impossible.
SHF teamed up with local partners, including Hope 2 Haiti and International Village, to bring the gift of hearing. We learned that people with disabilities are often labeled as worthless in that culture… so the blind, deaf, or handicapped were simply tossed aside and left to die. For the members our team, we felt we were bringing more than hearing aids into this community… we were also bringing acceptance.
There are many preventable causes of hearing loss in the developing world – it is a topic I will tackle in a future blog. But what I have found so awe-inspiring is that the Starkey global health initiative is not at all theoretical; it focuses on practical action to have an immediate impact on lives, one person at a time. Other organizations can learn from their pragmatic approach – which includes training residents to maintain an aftercare program for years to come. SHF also works to identify preventable medical causes of hearing loss, in the hope that someday, hearing aids will no longer be necessary.
I’ll post soon on my recent trip with SHF to West Africa – and then a February trip to Mexico. As I said, I’ve been struck by a new desire to travel with a purpose. Although jet lag is a force to be reckoned with, the desire to be of service burns ever brighter.
More to come soon.