Why I volunteered to support a training program in Vietnam

Working to improve hearing healthcare for children in Vietnam, a team of volunteers went to a rural region to train audiology technicians and assist with fitting children with hearing aids.

Over this past summer, I was one of two employees sponsored by the Hear the World Foundation to travel to Vietnam and support the Global Foundation for Children with Hearing Loss (GFCHL) at their 7th annual “Pediatric Audiology Training Workshop.”

GFCHL have been working in Vietnam since 2010. I wanted to be a part of this exciting project because of their successful model. Their international team of audiologists, speech therapists, early interventionists, and deaf education professionals work with local partners to identify and address gaps in the system of support across healthcare and education.

A total of 22 technicians, a mix of teachers and therapists starting to learn about audiology, and also more experienced technicians focused on raising the standard of pediatric audiology in rural Vietnam, attended the training at the Rose School in Dong Nai. Many attendees traveled for several hours and stayed overnight at the school or at a local hotel for the week-long course.

The volunteer team included Paige Stringer, founder and executive director of GFCHL, Michael Skrip an audiologist with Advanced Bionics in the US, two Vietnamese interpreters who made communication possible, and me, a pediatric audiologist with Phonak. Thedays were quite busy with lectures held each morning and then afternoon clinics with 4-5 children and their families seen each day.

Many of these families also traveled great distances, often arrived early in the morning and stayed at the school all day until time for their appointments. By the end of the week, the advanced technicians, with our support, were able to test and fit a total of 22 children between 0 and 6 years old with new Phonak hearing aids. The technicians also worked to develop a plan for ongoing management for each child and family and reviewed each case with their peers for feedback about their own skill development.

A parents’ night was held one evening at the school and about 20 families attended. Mike and I gave a talk on empowering parents and the advanced technicians were able to showcase their knowledge and skills, fielding questions from the parents about children with hearing loss and technology.

I have to say that often with this type of volunteer work, the focus is on the children and it was a great experience to meet and assist these children and their families —there were many smiling faces and even some teary ones that I will never forget. But, this assignment was as much about the dedication of these technicians as it was about the kids. It was truly rewarding to work with this group of technicians and see the professional growth and determination that will continue to serve and support these families.

Being part of this assignment made a difference in the short-term for the 22 kids that were fitted, but this program will continue to impact their lives and many other children with hearing loss in Vietnam.

Here you can learn more about the Hear the World Foundation and GFCHL’s program in Vietnam.

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