Over 2,000 people will receive the gift of hearing next week through the efforts of Starkey Hearing Foundation, an American-based charity that donates hearing aids in developing countries around the world.
Although Starkey has contributed over 60,000 hearing aids in approximately 15 African countries in past years, this is the first major gift to Rwanda.
Starkey Foundation was recruited to Rwanda through the request of the Minister of Education, Dr. Charles Murigande. He reached out to Starkey in February 2010 and encouraged them to extend their humanitarian actions to Rwanda.
With no avenue for purchasing hearing aids in Rwanda, this donation is of immense benefit and value to the hearing impaired community. The total number of individuals with hearing loss who will receive hearing aids is approximately 2,250 people from all over Rwanda, with over half of that number being children who suffer from hearing impairment.
The recipients of the hearing aids were gathered over the last few months through Rwanda’s schools for deaf children, local hospitals, faith-based communities and other organizations serving individuals with hearing loss.
Each person registered to receive the aids has previously been fit for custom-made ear-moulds, which will attach to the hearing devices they will receive next week. Starkey Foundation will donate two hearing aids to each person, totalling a donation of over 4500 hearing aids to Rwanda.
The President and Founder of Starkey, along with a team of hearing professionals, will be visiting Rwanda March 21-25 to fit each individual patient according to their degree of hearing loss. In conjunction with the Starkey Team, another US non-profit called PROS for Africa, will be hosting a group of NFL (National Football League) professional American football players to volunteer with the hearing aid project. Many well-known professional athletes will be visiting Rwanda for the first time through this mission.
Several local organizations have also been instrumental in coordinating this major project, including Bridge2Rwanda, Liliane Foundation, and Hope International. MTN contributed by donating SMS messages to inform the recipients and other essentials to help with the distribution. Participating hospitals included King Faisal Hospital, CHUK, Butare Hospital, Ruhengeri Hospital and PIH Rwinkwavu Hospital, in which they assessed and fit patients for the custom-made ear-moulds.
The distribution events will take place in Ruhengeri on March 21-22 and in Kigali on March 23-25. Starkey Hearing Foundation plans to return to Rwanda on an annual basis to distribute hearing aids and continue to give the gift of hearing to Rwandans with hearing loss.