- More than 600 citizens from western Jamaica have been given the gift of hearing through the efforts of the United States-based Starkey Hearing Foundation.
- The residents, who hail from Westmoreland, Hanover, Trelawny, St. James and St. Ann, were fitted with free custom-made hearing aids, during a special mission by the charity at the Montego Bay Convention Centre from May 30 to June 4.
- The six-day visit was made possible through partnership with the Juliet A. Holness Foundation under a memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed between the entities in 2018.
More than 600 citizens from western Jamaica have been given the gift of hearing through the efforts of the United States-based Starkey Hearing Foundation.
The residents, who hail from Westmoreland, Hanover, Trelawny, St. James and St. Ann, were fitted with free custom-made hearing aids, during a special mission by the charity at the Montego Bay Convention Centre from May 30 to June 4.
The six-day visit was made possible through partnership with the Juliet A. Holness Foundation under a memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed between the entities in 2018.
“We are a foundation who partners and gives away hearing aids free of cost to patients,” Country Coordinator for Starkey Hearing Foundation, Tamiann Young, tells JIS News.
She says that the programme of support entails three segments, with patients identified and evaluated in phase one; and phase two, involving taking the impressions for the hearing aids and returning to the island to fit persons with the devices.
Under phase three, patients benefit from monthly aftercare, where they receive batteries and support for the devices at no cost to them.
“A person doesn’t only get fitted with a hearing aid, they also get the support that they need with troubleshooting. They get counselled, and it’s a lifelong relationship with the Foundation and our patients,” Ms. Young shares, adding that the beneficiaries have been receptive of the Foundation’s efforts.
The mission to Montego Bay was the latest to Jamaica for the charity, which relaunched its programme to the island in 2017.
Since then, thousands of persons in the Corporate Area have received hearing aids through partnerships forged with the Ministry of Health and Wellness, Jamaica Council for Senior Citizens (JCSC), Jamaica Association for the Deaf, among other entities.
Ms. Young says that the charity is looking to extend its reach throughout the island.
“We want to ensure that hearing aids are donated to as many Jamaicans as possible who cannot afford them,” she says.
“We already have 1,200 patients in our system from previous missions we have done in Kingston, so we are really excited as we continue to grow the programme… and work with the Ministry of Health and Wellness and other organisations to continue to provide hearing healthcare, which is a deficit globally,” she adds.
In the meantime, Founder of the Juliet A. Holness Foundation, the Most Hon. Juliet Holness, says she is committed to supporting the work of the Starkey Hearing Foundation in Jamaica.
She told JIS News that she got involved with the Foundation two years ago when representatives came to the island to relaunch their mission.
“Since then, we have been raising funds; raising awareness… . The first mission was in Kingston. I decided to get involved and to get them through the process of how we import, how to get clearance licences and so on,” Mrs. Holness notes.
“I went to Minnesota in July of last year, where we had an opportunity to promote Jamaica as a place to sponsor. We got a whopping US$225,000 donated for the mission for this year. So that has gone towards the cost of making and defraying the cost of the hearing aids,” she adds.
For his part, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Starkey Hearing Foundation, Williams Austin, tells JIS News that the entity has been helping the hearing impaired in Jamaica since the 1970s.
“We started helping in Jamaica with the Kingston School for the Deaf and I provided the money for hearing aids from my company and sent to them… and then we gave them money to build an addition on the school in the 1980s,” he notes.
He says it is a privilege to lead a mission to the island to address the hearing challenges being faced by individuals.
“Hearing is a special gift because it connects people to life, to each other, to their family, and we all need that spiritual nourishment that comes from sharing and caring with people. I am happy to be doing this job,” he says.
Meanwhile, Carol Morrison of Rose Hall, St. James, is expressing gratitude to Starkey Hearing Foundation and its partners for assisting her father, who has had hearing challenges since childhood.
“I am elated, I am overjoyed, I am beyond words. When he was just about eight years old, he received a blow to his ear and it’s been downhill from then… . So I am overjoyed,” she says.
Berrick Williams, who journeyed from Steer Town, St. Ann, to be fitted with his device, says his hearing has been improved.
“We were here (at the Montego Bay Convention Centre) in February, so they could take the impression. They went back to the [United] States and brought them (devices) back to us, so I am so grateful as I understand that they are so expensive…. With this privilege I give thanks for that,” Mr. Williams said.
Starkey Hearing Foundation is dedicated to promoting healthy hearing healthcare worldwide and providing services at no cost to the beneficiaries.
The entity has community-based programmes in Africa, Asia, Latin America, Central America, Middle East, South-East Asia, and the Caribbean.