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In February 2019, a team of three Sonova volunteers traveled to Guatemala, together with 12-year-old Isaiah Baier. Their goal was firstly to fit the hearing aids donated by Isaiah and secondly to conduct more hearing screenings at various schools in Guatemala.

Three volunteers, three countries and many wonderful impressions. On Sunday evening, the three Sonova volunteers Moran, Philipe and Aaron arrived in Guatemala. They had never met or worked together before. For the coming four days, their objective was to fit 30 hearing aids, which were paid for by Isaiah’s donation, and to test children for hearing loss at various schools in Antigua and Guatemala City.

Hearing-aid fittings in Guatemala City

On Monday, the three volunteers went straight to the CEDAF clinic in Guatemala City. When the volunteers reached the clinic, the first families were already in the waiting room with their children. Some had traveled long distances to be there on this momentous day. After a brief tour through the clinic’s rooms, the big moment arrived for the first patients. “The emotions of the children, and also of the parents, were very moving and touching,” says Sonova volunteer Philipe, a hearing acoustician from Geers in Germany. “The assignment in Guatemala,” adds audiologist Moran from Israel, who normally works in a clinic in Haifa, “was not just a gift for others, but also for myself. It reminded me that I must be grateful for everything I have.”

Hearing tests at schools in Guatemala City and Antigua

From Tuesday to Friday, the three Sonova volunteers, along with the local team from Sonrisas que Escuchan, tested a total of 1145 children for hearing loss. Around 30 percent of the children needed to have their ears cleaned, or foreign bodies removed from their ear canals. “For these children, we can make a big difference,” says volunteer Aaron from Canada. Another 55 children did not pass the hearing test and were invited to the clinic in Guatemala City for a follow-up examination.

Many queries – few specialists

This was already the third Sonova team to travel to Guatemala and support the local organization Sonrisas que Escuchan. “We have a waiting list of schools that have asked us if we can come to them and carry out hearing tests there as well. Our small team simply can’t cope with all the work, so the help provided by the Hear the World Foundation and the Sonova volunteers is very important,” explains Paty Castellanos, the only audiologist in Guatemala. She has trained other people in audiometry and otoscopy, but there are sometimes so many children at the schools, that her team is grateful for any assistance.

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