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Helping Lebanon’s hearing impaired, part II

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Part two of a four part series. Read part one.

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“So Lebanon Can Hear,” held May, 2012 in Beirut, paired Minnesota-based Starkey Hearing Foundation with Los Angeles-based ALO Cultural Foundation - to supply 2,000 hearing aids to Lebanese desperate for adequate health care.

Hearing for the very first time

I found a wonderful connection with Sedro Elmasri, a six-year-old girl who arrived at the event, held in Beirut’s Hariri auditorium, with her teacher Hanadi Bab. Born with severe hearing loss in both ears, Sedra could not talk. Her face, in fact, seemed a bit blank, unable to fully register or comprehend what all the fuss was about.

Starkey Hearing Foundation’s Dr. Tani Austin-Starkey told me Sedra had a high frequency hearing loss in both ears. “All of your understanding is contained the high frequency range,” the doctor told me, fitting Sedra with her new hearing aids.

I could now understand the girl’s blank look – before my eyes, I saw it animate as the hearing aids kicked in. The change in Sedra’s visage was like an eclipse retreating from the sun. It may be a cliché, but in truth, the little girl’s face truly did light up.

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 goal: one million hearing aids distributed within one decade

The Starkey Foundation was fresh off an Ethiopian mission where 3,000 hearing aids were distributed. After their two day Beirut stop, they would be off to India, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea and Mexico. Starkey’s total delivery for the spring, 2012 mission: about 10,000 hearing aids.

Founded in 1984, Starkey delivers more than 50,000 hearing aids via more than 100 annual hearing missions to far-flung countries. Starkey also offers domestic programs, including one for U.S. teens.

The organization is part of the Clinton Global Initiative, which includes this ambitious goal: one million hearing aids distributed within one decade (2010 – 2020).

“We’ve doubled our missions in the past several years,” explained Starkey Hearing Foundation mission coordinator Areina Seay. The pace of work is exhausting, with little time between countries to rest as staff and volunteers fit recipients with hearing aids.

“People ask how I stand for 12 hours straight,” said Seay at a check-out desk where recipients received follow-up packages and bright gold medals. “But you get energy from the people – it’s amazing how many need help.”

Read part three next week: ALO Cultural Foundation targets Lebanese hearing loss.

Read part one

To volunteer or donate, visit:

ALO Cultural Foundation | Michael Lloyd, (818) 421-0574

Starkey Hearing Foundation

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