I’ve been on the board of the Hear the World Foundation from its inception over 10 years ago. Most of the projects I know on paper only. The true flavor of a project, however, can only be understood when visiting. It’s always uplifting and motivating and I just love doing it. One of the most important insights from these visits is how much difference individuals who care can make. I think we often underestimate our ability to make a difference.
My latest visit was to a project in Malawi the foundation has been supporting since 2011.
You’re not alone if right now you’re asking yourself, where exactly is Malawi? Well that it is in Africa is the easy part. South East Africa to be exact. It is landlocked and borders on Zambia, Tanzania and Mozambique. Malawi is among the world’s least developed countries.
Getting there from Switzerland is a bit of a journey. Zurich to Vienna, Vienna to Addis Abeba, Addis to Lilongwe and straight for a first visit to the ABC Hearing Clinic. I’ve been working for Phonak for over 30 years and have seen clinics and offices around the world in both developed and developing countries. The ABC clinic could have been anywhere. Thanks to the long collaboration with the Hear the World Foundation they are well equipped with both diagnostic instruments (thanks GN Otometrics!) and up to date Phonak hearing instruments. More important, they are well trained. Extremely well trained. RECDs, OAEs, ABRs, Real Ear, screening newborns, making earmolds, counseling parents, teaching new students are part of the daily routine. They make home or school visits and ensure follow up. They practice audiology to the highest standards. Golden practice standards are not a first world privilege, nor are they a luxury. Doing things right is always the way to go. I’m so impressed.
During our week in Malawi, we saw a lot and it was all a delight. The highlights included: expanding neonatal screening to the largest government hospital in Lilongwe, providing outreach to a city 2.5 hours drive from the capital (with a specially equipped audiology trailer donated by the foundation), and attending the first day of the officially recognized audiology studies class.
I saved the best for last. From October onwards, the clinic is run by local clinicians. Think about it. The clinic was founded in 2013 and there were no local clinicians. A mere 5 years later, they have reached a professional level that allows them to take over and service their own people. They have been empowered by education to be independent of Western professional staff. It is an amazing achievement and the best definition of sustainability I can think of.
Find out more about the project in Malawi here.