Sooper” says a young woman, her eyes lighting up with happiness, before she folds her hands in a gesture of gratitude. Another little girl is overwhelmed, and can only say three words “Thank you Rotary”. Another toddler says it all with her dancing eyes and a wide grin on her lips, as her newly acquired hearing aid starts transmitting sound into her silent world.
The occasion is a three-day camp organised by the Rotary Club of Haripad, RID 3211, Kerala, to fit hearing aids on hearing-impaired children and adults. The real beauty in this service done by the club members lies in the fact that not only 180 beneficiaries were fitted with 309 hearing aids during this project, but the club members also went out of their way to ensure that the beneficiaries identified got in time their certification of a physical deficiency from the required medical authorities.
At the end of the camp, the joyful expressions on the faces of the beneficiaries made all the hard work put in by the entire project team worth the effort.
President of the club Manu Mohan says that the club is always on the lookout for “innovative projects. For some time now, we have been receiving an increasing number of applications for financial assistance to buy hearing aids.” This made the club’s leadership team search for organisations that were already working in the area of hearing handicap. Once identified, these organisations were invited to join the club in a project to bring sound into the lives of the hearing disabled.
Coincidentally enough, even as the club was searching for suitable partners with the requisite skill sets to do a complete job, its members heard that the Ali Yavar Jung National Institute for Speech and Hearing Disabilities, Mumbai, and IRLD of Mahatma Gandhi University, Kottayam, working as a team, were searching for a reliable service partner to provide hearing aids to economically disadvantaged people with hearing disabilities. This was part of a GoI initiative undertaken to celebrate the 75th anniversary of Indian Independence.
As good fortune had it, their search on the Internet revealed the work being done by RC Haripad in Kerala. “Their fact-finding team visited Haripad and was convinced of our reliability and approached me with a proposal for a joint partnership to help the hearing handicapped,” says the club president.
Once the partnership nitty-gritty had been worked out, the club launched the project costing ₹54 lakh. An announcement was made by the club in the media inviting applications, from economically disadvantaged people with a hearing problem. This got good media coverage in print, electronic and also social media. Soon the applications started pouring in “from different parts of the state, far exceeding our expectations.”
The beneficiaries were scrutinised and selected but many of them encountered a hurdle, thanks mainly to the prevalent Covid conditions in Kerala, in getting a hearing disability certificate issued by a district/taluk medical board, a prerequisite to qualify. This proved to be a major stumbling block in reaching the hearing aids to the selected beneficiaries and completing the project.
But the project organising committee quickly got into the act, persuaded local hospitals to get the beneficiaries examined by the competent authorities and issue the required certificate of eligibility to the deserving applicants. Club secretary Dr Nikhil Krishnan explains that thanks to “our club’s previous hospital-related projects such as the HOPE Project, and our PolioPlus programmes, and our collaborations with people’s representatives, the medical boards of the taluk/district hospitals agreed to meet, examine the applicants and issue the required certificates.”
The camp began on the club’s premises on Oct 7, all Covid protocols were observed and the beneficiaries were asked to come for the fitment of the hearing aids only in small batches, “and all social distancing norms were observed.”
The hearing aid camp was inaugurated by A M Arif, Member of Parliament from Alappuzha, and the local municipal chairman K M Raju distributed the first hearing aids. DG K Srinivasan, AG Resmi Prasad and Dr Tina Antony, chairman of AGTS, participated.
The second day of the camp was attended by DGN K Babumon, and the third day’s activities were inaugurated by Haripad MLA Ramesh Chennithala. “We are really grateful for the commitment and dedication of the team of doctors and health professionals from the partnering organisations, and members of the two Rotaract clubs who worked with us on this project. At the end of the camp, the joyful expressions on the faces of the beneficiaries made all the hard work put in by the entire project team worth the effort,” adds Prof K Sabarinath, a core team member of the club.