First Lady, Mrs. Sandra Granger, met with a representative of the Guyana Foundation, a team from Starkey Hearing Foundation and a representative from the Ministry of Health on the 25th of February, 2016 to discuss strategies for the implementation of Starkey Hearing Foundation’s Community-based Hearing Healthcare program in Guyana for hearing-impaired patients in need.
Mr. Anthony Autar, Managing Director of the Guyana Foundation; Mr. Derek T. Johnson, International Mission Liaison; Ms. Julia Lis, International Mission Liaison Contractor; Dr. Luqman Lawal, Manager: Research, Monitoring and Evaluation, all of the Starkey Hearing Foundation, and Dr Ruth Quaicoe, Head of Audiology in Guyana, based at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC), met with the First Lady at her State House office.
Mrs. Granger said her participation in the programme is linked to her being patron of the Guyana Foundation, and she "is very happy to work with bonafide organisations that are going to help the people of Guyana."
While this is her first meeting with representatives of the Foundation, Mrs. Granger first met Co-Founder of Starkey Hearing Foundation, Mrs. Tani Austin at the First Ladies Summit, during the 70th Session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, USA, last year, who had indicated an interest in bringing the programme to Guyana.
"Starkey Foundation's programme provides hearing health and they are working with the Ministry of Health and other organisations to provide the gift of hearing to persons with hearing impairment particularly our children and senior citizens," Mrs. Granger said.
Meanwhile, Mr. Autar said that the Guyana Foundation, together with its partners, plans to implement the first phase of Starkey's four-part programme this year.
The four phases of the programme of Starkey Hearing Foundation include: Phase 1- Patient identification, which involves conduction of community outreach to identify potential patients and provide primary ear care services and hearing screenings to identify potential hearing device candidates; Phase 2- a Hearing mission, where the hearing aids with custom earmolds and batteries are provided for beneficiaries; Phase 3- an AfterCare programme, where these recipients benefit from services such as repair and replacement of the hearing devices, batteries provision and additional counseling.
The last Phase, Phase 4 is the ultimate goal of the 3 previous phases. It focuses on mainstreaming hearing aid beneficiaries back into life; supporting them in participating schools while implementing speech and language training for students who have progressed to the level of their hearing peers with the overall goal of helping them to connect with their communities. Additionally, this phase also enables hearing aids recipients connect with their families and the society at large. These Phases are pieces of jigsaw puzzle that culminate in improvement in quality of life of patients.
In an invited comment Dr. Luqman Lawal, Starkey Hearing Foundation’s Manager: Research, Monitoring and Evaluation, said that the Foundation came to Guyana to establish local partnerships for a Community-based hearing healthcare program enabling the Foundation to create a local presence once the program commences. The long-term wish of the Foundation is to help hearing-impaired people that can benefit from a hearing aid but can’t afford a hearing aid in Guyana. The local presence will involve working with our local partners to ensure sustainability of the program and not just coming in and out of the country without a presence to continuously help people we have served and others in need.
"We want to be able to work with local partners so that after identifying the patients, we're able to give them the gift of hearing and the local partners are able to follow-up on these patients and fix any problems they might have with the device. [They will also] be able to follow-up on their progress as regards education, employment and the improvement in their quality of life," Dr. Lawal said.
Since the group arrived in Guyana on Monday, members have already met with the Ministers of Health, Indigenous Peoples Affairs and Education to set-up strategy partnerships; and with the Lions Clubs, which will provide support during the execution of the programme, Dr. Lawal said. He anticipates that Starkey Foundation will be starting the first phase of identifying patients in June.
According to Dr. Lawal, the group is particularly interested in garnering the First Lady's support in mainstreaming the beneficiaries into life. "Some of them (the recipients), after having been fitted with a hearing aid, should be able to get good lives, get good employment, acquire good skills so as to be able to be mainstreamed into their daily lives," he said.
Apart from that, Dr Lawal said, Starkey Foundation is particularly interested in working with children "as after having been fitted with the hearing aids we found a lot of them do well in conventional schools. So after giving them hearing aids we hope to be able to mainstream a number of them to conventional schools to maximise their potentials."
In addition, Dr. Ruth Quaicoe, Head of Audiology in Guyana, said the GPHC and the Ministry of Health have already identified a number of persons who are expected to be among the first beneficiaries. The recipients will be drawn from those registered at the Ministry's clinics across the country. There are clinics in all but Potaro-Siparuni (Region Eight), but plans are in train to soon remedy this, she said.
Dr. Quaicoe is encouraging members of the public who suffer from hearing loss or who experience difficulties hearing or are aware of persons, particularly children, who may be suffering from hearing loss to register for screening. She noted that the screenings are free and, for those who may need a hearing device, the instrument is also free of cost.
According to Dr Quaicoe, the Ministry is partnering with all non-governmental organisations and other groups who provide services for persons with hearing impairments to ensure that every person is served.
The Guyana Foundation is a charitable trust founded by Ms. Supriya Singh-Bodden, CCH, which co-ordinates, conducts and partners with like-minded groups to carry out small and large-scale projects countrywide to enhance lives and contribute meaningfully to therebuilding of Guyana. Starkey Hearing Foundation, which is based in the United States, is a member of the Clinton Global Initiative and is the largest charity globally, which conducts free hearing missions around the world.
Finally, as observed in all the countries the foundation is present, the success of the program in Guyana is highly dependent on the local partnerships built. The program will start later this year once the roles to be played by different partners and stakeholders are fully understood and Memoranda of Understandings are signed to that effect.
About Starkey Hearing Foundation
Starkey Hearing Foundation is a leading Global Hearing healthcare organization that uses hearing as a vehicle to reflect caring and change lives around the world. The World Health Organization estimates that disabling hearing loss affects more than 360 million people, including 32 million children, worldwide, yet many do not have access to the hearing devices that can help them.
As a member of Clinton Global Initiative, Starkey Hearing Foundation has pledged to provide more than one million hearing aids to people in need this decade. In addition to giving the gift of hearing through worldwide hearing missions, Starkey Hearing Foundation promotes hearing health awareness and education through the Listen Carefully campaign and provides hearing devices to low-income Americans through the Hear Now program.
The foundation started as the philanthropic effort of Starkey Hearing Technologies and metamorphosed into a full-fledged foundation that was founded by William F. Austin in 1984 and currently has Community-based hearing healthcare programs in about 40 countries.