The Greatest Gift
The Greatest Gift – Giving
During this holiday season, we would like to offer a heartfelt thank you to all of our patients for giving us The Greatest Gift – the ability to share hearing with others freely.
The culture of A&E Audiology is to help people however and wherever we can. Because of this culture, we maintain an ongoing partnership with Entheos Audiology Cooperative. Entheos’ purpose is to provide sustainable, impactful hearing humanitarian missions, bringing the gift of hearing to people in Zambia, Haiti, Guatemala, and Jordan. In 2017 we had the opportunity to complete our third mission to Guatemala. Our own Samara Elliot (A&E Marketing Manager) was a team member of this latest Guatemala mission. We recently sat down with Samara for a post-trip interview. We’re sharing the conversation with you and hope it informs and inspires.
Thanks for joining us today Samara! We’re excited to hear all about the trip! First, tell us about how the team helped the people of Guatemala to hear better:
Personally, this is my second trip to Guatemala. I’m still amazed at the number of people we can see and serve.
Each day we go to a new location with a complete audiology clinic setup. The main difference from our home offices is our mission clinics are fully mobile. We’ve had many generous people donate to ensure we travel with the best equipment. We transport portable structures and tents by truck and boat to the locations. We have many rooms to the clinic, and each room serves a dedicated purpose. Our typical patient flow works like this:
- We have a translator in the reception area who helps us communicate and fill out the records for every patient. These records allow us to follow up with each patient beyond the first visit. We structure all of our processes toward the goal of sustainability.
- Next, the patient goes to the wax removal area. Even this simple step can be transformational to people without services. We once found a bead which had been lodged in the ear of a little girl for nine years!
- Next, they go to screening to further analyze their needs.
- From screening, they go to hearing tests. If testing shows they have hearing loss, then they’ll start the process for hearing aids.
- At the hearing mold station, we make the impressions which will be used to make their custom ear molds.
- From there once their molds are ready, they go to fitting and complete the final step for using their new hearing aids.
- We also had a new area this year – an art expression tent for kids. This was a wonderful thing. The kids there often have little to no access to things like crayons or markers. They usually aren’t able to express themselves through art. We gave them this opportunity, and the kids really loved it and expressed themselves in beautiful ways.
Overall our goal is to operate with an organized, efficient flow. This organization enables us to treat an incredible number of patients each day while also creating a reassuring environment for the patients where they know everyone will be helped.
What impact did you see the gift of hearing bring to the people of Guatemala?
I was able to see familiar faces from my first trip. I saw the progress they have made and how happy they are now. Two people stand out in my memory.
The first is a woman that we fit for a hearing aid on our first trip. She was deaf, blind, and never left her house because she was afraid. Now that she can hear, she goes outside and enjoys life. When we met again, we found out her hearing device had broken. When she received her new better device, she burst into joyous singing! The joy of this beautiful and courageous woman spilled over to the entire team!
Secondly, it was rewarding to see a young girl named Leticia again. She wasn’t even speaking the last time that I saw her. She was talking and interacting with everyone. We were all amazed by her development in such a short time!
It was gratifying to see the lasting change in children and families. Sadly, in Guatemala, if a child has a hearing impairment they will struggle in school and in life, which often leads to them being ostracized by their family. Through hearing restoration, they can reclaim their rightful place of value within their family. You can’t put a price tag on change this meaningful!
I was personally encouraged by the sustainability of our efforts. No matter how fantastic the trip is and how many people you serve, you always know that you’re leaving soon. Because of this, all of our efforts for sustainability helped me to know we would be leaving our patients in good hands. We have taught teachers in the area. We found a local Audiologist and several ENT’s to help treat and care for patients between our trips. Our interpreter and thorough records help us to follow up with patients when we return. The help we offer isn’t just one-time-only, its ongoing.
We heard that Braden Baker joined the team! Can you tell us who Braden is and how this happened?
Braden and his family made the trip unique and extra memorable. I’ll recall how this happened as best as I can.
Braden is an 11-year-old boy who was born with hearing loss. He has been wearing hearing aids since he was seven months old.
Recently his dog chewy ate his hearing aids – twice!
In their frustration Braden’s parents gave him a lecture that hearing aids are expensive, many kids can’t afford them, and he should be more careful with them.
Then the unexpected happened.
Braden is a fan of the Ellen show and loves how Ellen gives back by helping others. Watching Ellen give back inspired him to start a GoFundMe account to help buy hearing aids for kids who can’t afford them. His original goal was $1000. Ellen got wind of what Braden was doing and invited him to the show. To make a long story short, Braden’s GoFundMe goal of $1000 has been blown away! The last time I checked, he has raised over $70,000 and his current goal is $100,000! I have no doubt he’ll reach his goal. While he was on the Ellen show, Braden mentioned that he wanted to receive a mission trip for his birthday.
The next chapter in the story started when A&E’s Founder, Dr. Elliott heard about Braden’s wish to go on a mission trip. She had the opportunity to meet him at an Oticon Foundation event. Dr. Elliot invited Braden on our Guatemala mission. Braden gleefully accepted the invite and joined the team with his mom and grandmother.
Watching Braden on this trip was inspirational. He filled his entire day with serving, loving and entertaining others. On the ride home, he was usually passed out from exhaustion.
Braden was an example to all of us. Here was a little boy who just wanted to help another person with their hearing. He didn’t envision all that would happen through that small initial wish. All the team, including Braden, were blown away by how a small dream turned into helping hundreds of people. Small beginnings turn into significant change when we all get involved!
Do you see this latest Guatemala trip having a lasting effect on what we do at A&E Audiology?
- These trips are hard work and long hours, but they breathe new life into the entire A&E team. Don’t get me wrong, we love what we do, but often the business end of running things tends to distract from our culture – to help every person we encounter. These trips realign and re-energize us to why we are here and do what we do every day. They “shine a light into our hearts” and fuel our passion for helping others.
- The mission trips also inspired us to open a local non-profit, A&E Hearing Connection which helps local people in the Lancaster, PA area who can’t afford hearing services and devices.
- Then lastly, and most importantly, we have discovered that our patients are just as passionate about helping people as we are! Our clients have generously embraced our efforts of “Buy one Give one,” where with each product or service purchased we will give to a person in need. We have seen this culture of giving become infectious and, that is a beautiful thing. More and more people are discovering that the greatest gift we can receive is the ability to give to others.
Thank you, Samara, for taking the time to share the Guatemala trip with us! Do you have any final thoughts you’d like to leave with us?
Yes, on behalf of all of us at A&E Audiology & Hearing Aid Center, I would like to convey our sincere gratitude to all of our loyal customers. Through helping you to hear better, we can help change the lives of those who lack the means. You make everything we do possible.
May you all be richly blessed during this holiday season and the year to come!