Hear Haiti: Haiti, the Unbelievable

Open Ears is following a group of Sonova team members as they head to Haiti with the Hear The World Foundation. Jenn Brinn is a digital marketer who works at Sonova e-Hearing Care in Nashville, Tennessee. She is passionate about technology, travel, coffee, documentaries, and her family.

Day 8

Over the years, The Hear the World Foundation has been sending volunteers on dozens of service trips with the mission of providing better access to hearing healthcare to those in need around the globe. Historically, these volunteers have been Sonova employees with a clinical audiology background; after all, the majority of the work on these trips is to fit and recheck hearing aids. Since starting work at Sonova a year-and-a-half ago, I would get the emails asking for volunteers for this or that service trip, but none of the qualification criteria matched my skill set.

In May, I finally got the email I’d been waiting for…the trip to Haiti in October of 2015 needed a communications volunteer. Seeing as my background and interests are in digital marketing and communications, this opportunity was a perfect fit. I applied, and in early July was notified that I was selected to be the first volunteer with a dedicated role of being the trip historian/documentarian. Since I am not an audiologist, I immediately began brainstorming how I could leverage my hobbies (and day job)–which consists of photography, videography, social media, and content creation–to best capture the spirit of the people we were setting out to serve. The answer, I would come to find out, was about to reveal itself to me in a way I wouldn’t have believed if I didn’t experience it for myself.

LuggageIt began when our plane touched down in Port Au Price around 3 p.m. Sunday. The airport was small and crowded. The baggage claim carousel was chaos–people pulling bags off as quickly as they were released, elbowing one another out of the way, knocking into each other with luggage carts. Once the area cleared, my bag was nowhere to be found. After searching and waiting for over an hour, I surrendered to the fact that my luggage was either taken by mistake or stolen. Not wanting to hold up the team any longer, we loaded up the bus and headed to New Life Children’s Home where we would be staying for the week. I thought, surely in a few hours someone will call saying they had taken my bag by mistake and it would be returned to me. But by 9 p.m., my phone hadn’t rung. It was time to start asking my travel mates to borrow pajamas, a toothbrush, and something to sleep in. In the poorest country in the Americas, the only items I had to my name were the clothes on my back and my camera and computer, which I traveled with in my carry-on backpack. Talk about being out of your comfort zone!

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Hear Haiti: Getting More Than You Give

Open Ears is following a group of Sonova team members as they head to Haiti with the Hear The World Foundation. Carina Rodriquez is the Clinical Manager of Latin America for Advanced Bionics. She is originally from Uruguay, and moved to southern California two years ago.

Day 7:

I joined this Hear the World mission as part of the diagnostic audiology team. Although the daily profession is second-nature to us back in the States, here in Haiti we are learning the true significance of our role. The medical professional aspect of hearing impairment and thinking about it as a “job” seems less important here in Haiti, and it has become an expression of love towards the patients–responding to their needs from our hearts.

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Hear Haiti: Celebrating the Little Things

Open Ears is following a group of Sonova team members as they head to Haiti with the Hear The World Foundation. Sylvia Ciechanowski is Roger & FM Customer Service Representative at Phonak Canada. She loves to travel, has a passion for dancing, and dreams of one day becoming an audiologist.

Day 6:

As soon as we walked through the gate of Haiti Deaf Academy, each one of us were hugged and greeted with huge smiles. We only worked with the children for a few days, but I’m sure the impact they have had on my view of the world will stay with me for the rest of my life. I am surprised by how many of the little details I can remember about each child. Rose taught me my first words in sign language, Albert allowed us into his world by painting beautiful pictures for us. Beu even taught me a new way to style my hair! It is amazing how kids can just pull on your heartstrings, allowing you to just love them instantly.

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Hear Haiti: Similarities hundreds of miles from home

Open Ears is following a group of Sonova team members as they head to Haiti with the Hear The World Foundation. Laurie Daley is the territory manager for northern New England for Phonak US. She is recently married, loves to travel and is a huge Patriots fan.

Day 5:

I came on this trip fully expecting a life changing experience. What I didn’t expect was that the similarities between our worlds would affect me as much as the differences.

Earlier this week, the team agreed that we were here to work (and we have!). In addition to testing for hearing loss, fitting, and follow-up of the children at the Haiti Deaf Academy, we were compelled to do more than that, and we provided other services for other at-risk groups for hearing loss, as time permitted. One of these extra projects came when we were invited to do hearing screenings for students of The Respire Haiti Christian School.

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Hear Haiti: The Road to Sustainability

Open Ears is following a group of Sonova team members as they head to Haiti with the Hear The World Foundation. Nate Schau is the Customer Care Audiology Trainer for Phonak US, he has and awesome wife, two beautiful daughters and is an avid fan of the Chicago Cubs.

Day 4:
Today was our third full day in Haiti. We woke in the morning to another wonderful breakfast prepared by the staff at New Life. We quickly loaded up our vans with our equipment and headed to Leveque. This is my second trip to Haiti to work in the community of Leveque. The goal of the Hear Haiti program is to create a sustainable hearing health program. Since my first trip, I have seen much progress toward this goal and today was no different.
When we first went to Leveque yesterday I was excited to see that the children that have been previously fit are still wearing their hearing instruments and getting benefit from them. But for the Hear Haiti program to continue, it can’t just end there. Sustainability means many things–it means that in addition to fitting hearing instruments, we need to follow up and check the hearing instruments periodically. It also means that the children who are fit also receive continued auditory and verbal training. It also means that we continue to train the local, on-site nurse who helps take care of the day-to-day questions and troubleshooting that may arise with the hearing instruments.
When we arrived in Leveque today, we immediately went to work setting up our clinic for the day.
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Hear Haiti: Giving the gift of sound

Open Ears is following a group of Sonova team members as they head to Haiti with the Hear The World Foundation. Nerissa Davies is an audiologist with Connect Hearing in Courtenay, BC, Canada. She has seven years experience in pediatric audiology is passionate about helping people of all ages hear and communicate with their loved ones.

Day 3:
Today was an amazing and wonderful day in Haiti. We got up early and enjoyed a delicious breakfast prepared by the stellar staff at New Life Children’s house, then after a pep talk from Cathy we drove out to the Deaf Academy in Leveque.

Honestly, I have never been so warmly welcomed anywhere in my life. The children swarmed out to meet us, with joyful smiles and hugs aplenty. Truly, I have never known children so eager to laugh, so generous with affection and so grateful for help. In particular, Mike (our on-site hearing aid technician) was a big hit with the young boys, who smothered him with hugs. Every time I looked at him, he had one boy in each arm, one boy clinging to each leg, and sometimes even a fifth one on his back! It was easy to see how pleased they were to have us and how hopeful they were that we could help them.

And so we set about doing just that.

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Hear Haiti: A Thankful Canadian Abroad

Open Ears is following a group of Sonova team members as they head to Haiti with the Hear The World Foundation. Julie Garneau is the Technical Documentation Coordinator for Unitron, and her favorite sound is the great-tailed grackle.

Day 2:
Although it was only our first full day, it was one of the most exhausting and rewarding days I’ve ever had.

We went for a drive today, and it was an adventure in itself! The roads themselves are dirt, with potholes – craters, actually – sometimes full of water, sometimes not. There are no lines on the road, no traffic lights, and no stop signs. There doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of rules or regulations about driving, either. And sometimes chickens run in front of the cars. It’s not like anything I’ve ever seen before, or likely will again.

We started our morning by going to MetalWorks – this amazing little artist community where the majority of the crafts were made with scrap metal. They were unbelievably beautiful, and the artists were the most talented group of people who took so much pride in their work. I even bought several pieces to take home.

From there, we went somewhere that actually had me in complete awe. There’s a small school on the outskirts of Cité Soleil. From the outside of Anacias’ Capva School, there is a guarded metal gate. The inside has a medical center on the right, and a school on the left. Inside the school, there is one room for the smaller children, and four pods for the older ones. They were just finishing classes as we arrived, and many of them ran outside when they saw our vans pull in. We were greeted with more smiles and waves and happiness than I ever have been. I truly felt like a celebrity.

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