(Translated from Spanish)
Yesterday I was reading a book written by two Danish men about education. The final paragraph of this book says:
“To change and transform the world we must act. All people act where they live and with the resources they have and we all want to change this society and we are fighting for the same.”
(Hansen, S. & Jensen J. (1969) El libro rojo del cole. Nuestra cultura: Madrid)
This reminded me of the volunteers who came to Guatemala from the Hearing Missions Foundation (HMF), people whom I have the honor to call my friends. I met them one Sunday in the morning, specifically November 8th, 2015. It was the first day of their mission trip in Guatemala.
I remember all of them: Sheryl and Fortunato Figliano (those who lead), a couple full of love to give to others; Gerry and Joey Hohler, they contributed to creating beautiful smiles through a dental mission: Liz Shobel, Jessica Hoefler and Susan Herr, Doctors in Audiology, they were the “Baywatch staff” of HMF; Stefanie Adams, responsible for capturing the dreams come true in pictures. I Also remember the local team: Aldo Orantes, Sandra Hernández, Julio Fernández, Miguel and Manuel Ventura (The latter two were Dr. Sheryl´s patients as children, their story in it’s self is incredible).
I was very nervous, that was the first time I coordinated an event like that. Also, my English is not so good and I had to translate between them and the patients. I do not know how we did it, maybe because the love and kindness are universal languages.
That week, between Sunday and Friday, they helped hundreds of deaf children in Guatemala City and the countryside. The HMF team traveled in a van that reminded me of the “The A-team”. The driver was Rudy, he is Cuban-Guatemalan, a person full of talent and a big heart, during the mission he was much more than a driver.
Now, why these missions are so important? To answer this question we should analyze the context of Guatemala. In my country most people are poor or extremely poor (59% according to the latest survey of 2015). Unfortunately, disability is more prevalent in poor populations (90% of people with disabilities in the world live in poor countries according the World Health Organization). Disability contributes to the vicious cycle of poverty. The families facing disabilities have grater obstacles to succeed. A hearing aid itself does not change a life, but a deaf girl who uses hearing aids is more likely to go to school, learn a job and help her family to break the cycle of poverty, and that does change a life.
HMF volunteers taught me many life lessons, here are three of them:
* Have passion for what you do:
Only 3 months after this mission they planned another mission in less than one week. Sheryl and Fortunato Figliano had to come to a meeting in Guatemala and they wanted help more deaf children with hearing aids (without staff and resources, only their big heart). In the end, I do not know how, they helped nearly one hundred children. Wow!
* Share what you know and what you have:
Sheryl and Fortunato invited my dear friend and co-worker Dra. Lilly España (she will study a Doctorate in Audiology in USA) and me to an audiology training camp in their home in Ohio.. We stayed in their house for 15 days. In addition to training us, they made us feel at home. It was amazing!
* Be humble, do not seek the limelight:
They saw the reality of the deaf children in Guatemala and they admitted that reality was bigger than what they could do. Because of that, they connected my organization with a foundation with more resources. We are currently planning a big mission for this year. This taught me think first about the people!
I could write many pages about them. Honestly, my bad English does not let me express everything I wanted. However, I want, in the name of the deaf children in Guatemala, say thank you to Hearing Mission Foundation and all the people who support them. They are actually helping to change the world, one life at a time, making the difference.