June 30, 2017

A Trip to the Middle East: Sound of Life Foundation gives aide to refugees

Recently, I had the opportunity to visit Amman, Jordan with the Sound of Life Foundation. The purpose of the trip was to help Syrian refugees, living in Jordan, with their hearing loss. As most of us know, Syria is a worn and torn country at this time, and refugees are leaving the country searching for better lives. A large number of them end up in neighboring countries, but primarily Jordan. They’ve been through experiences we wouldn’t wish upon anyone—frequent bombings and shootings, while losing close friends and family.

Our group visited several different Syrian and Palestinian refugee camps throughout the Amman area. Camps are areas of the city or surrounding town that are primarily occupied by refugees. Generally, they have local schools or community centers established specifically to help other refugees. These centers are generally operated by other refugees who have volunteered their time to help others in need.

As we arrived to our clinic session each day, we had anywhere from 20-50 people ready to be seen. They would arrive and we’d put them through a series of stations, of sorts, to ensure we were meeting each of their needs. We’d start with a visible examination of the ear, then earmolds (taken and completed within 45 minutes), an art station to occupy their time and draw some of their daily experiences, a hearing test, then finally, receiving their hearing devices. As they would file through you could feel a little nervousness from the children, as well as their parents, but as they’d go from station to station you could see them become more comfortable with what we were doing for them.

My job was, primarily, to program the devices for the patients—a large majority of whom were children. A majority of them in this particular area had severe hearing loss. The cause of the loss varied from severe, sudden noise exposure from bomb explosions, to genetic reasons. The amount of hearing loss they had made our job even more important, as a few of these kids live in a quiet world with very little effective oral communication, and don’t experience the sounds of the world that we take for granted each day, such as traffic in the streets, airplanes above, or the rustling of leaves in the trees. The light that would shine in their eyes as the hearing aids were turned on was humbling as they became instantly aware of sounds around them. Their excitement, happiness, and gratefulness for the gift of hearing is what made this trip special.

It was an eye-opening experience to visit a country in the Middle East. I had been fed with pre-conceived notions of what to expect before visiting, with friends and family asking me, “Are you nervous?” Or telling me, ” Don’t get killed.” At no point did I ever feel threatened or uncomfortable. On our last night in Amman, we were downtown at 1:00 a.m. with hundreds of locals, fitting in with the rest of them, ordering and eating shawarma on a busy downtown boulevard without hesitation.

I will never forget my time in Jordan, and hope to do it again in the future. It was fantastic to see a culture for what it actually is, rather than what we perceive it to be. This part of the word is full of fantastic, grateful, humble, and loving people. The appreciation for our group, as a whole, as we were able to positively impact the lives of children in need, was truly memorable.


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