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Helping Lebanon’s hearing impaired, part I

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Part one of a four part series

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Minor and major miracles flashed before me as I assisted a mission to fit hundreds of hearing aids to children and the elderly in Beirut.

The realization that one can hear for the first time initially registers in the eyes - a sudden light to a new world blinks on. That’s often followed by laughter as other interior switches are triggered - as new realizations cascade to awareness.

“You can see hearing in their eyes.”

That’s the standard phrase audiologists use to describe what they witness on such missions as “So Lebanon Can Hear,” held May, 2012 in Beirut. Minnesota-based Starkey Hearing Foundation partnered with Los Angeles-based ALO Cultural Foundation to supply about 2,000 hearing aids to Lebanese desperate for adequate health care.

The event was a rare chance to discover a slice of Lebanese culture I would otherwise miss by solely treading tourist routes. I was traveling with ALO’s founder, Lebanese born Wafa Kanan, who suggested volunteering at the mission to witness the depth of desperation that many of her people experience.

Kanan came to the U.S. in 1990 to start a media company and launch her foundation. She frequently visits her country on humanitarian missions, often with five or more suitcases stuffed with care packages.

My volunteer role, to be completely honest, was minimal – some crowd control and photography. But even this slight brush with Lebanese who were certainly too poor to imbibe at Rue Gouraud in Gemmayzeh, proved a memorable touchstone for my larger Lebanon experience.

Read part two next week: Hearing for the very first time

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