The boy we bought a hearing aid for last year asked for some new batteries last month and has since informed us that they weren't working very well. The batteries were new, so we thought it would be best to investigate and as it's been a year since his first hearing exam, it would be a good idea to take him for another test to fine tune his hearing aid and see if there was anything else that could be done.
As it is now school holidays we quickly set up an appointment and headed back to the Audiologist we saw just last week with the young girl. It's a 30 minute drive down to Santa Cruz in Panjim and it's nice to have the wind in your hair this time of year as the temperatures are soaring as we get closer to the start of the monsoon.
We were the first customers so headed straight through and the Audiologist quickly found the reason why the hearing aid wasn't working too well - Ear wax! There is a small plastic filter that protects the equipment from ear wax and it was currently full which was blocking the sound. We received six new filters when we bought the hearing aid so it was a simple process to take out the old one and replace with a nice shiny new one. Once done, the hearing aid was back to full strength. While we were there it was an ideal time to do another test.
Just like last time he was a little eager to please and we had to turn his chair around so he could not see when we were pressing the buttons. He would raise his hand when he heard a sound. The test ended up being pretty similar to the previous one so the consistency is good and he does respond much better when wearing the hearing aid so we at least know everything is as expected.
I would like to thank Amrita V Rodrigues, The Audiologist as she kindly waived the cost of the exam, it all helps... Thank you.
More and more children are becoming aware of the work we do and we are expanding into new communities which quickly mushroom the number of children asking for help. The latest student we are helping is from this new area and as with all the children we help, we make a 'home visit' to ensure that the children are suitable and 'in need'. On the latest visit we met up with the family and their neighbours. Several of the families wanted our help but to be honest, we have reached our limit on the resources we have, so we have to turn children away. But one young girl caught our attention and needed our help more than most.
This particular young girls is deaf, and has been classified with profound hearing loss although we didn't know at the time. She is just six years old and has not attended school and wasn't wearing a hearing aid so we thought she would be an ideal candidate for our help. Girls in general have a reduced chance of attending school. It is, sadly, just how it is in India where brothers are given many more chances than their sisters. This is even more apparent with children with disabilities, so this girls hearing impediment meant it was unlikely that she would have anything like the chances that her elder brother would have.
We spoke to the mother and offered our help to get the young girl admitted into school and with the option to provide her with a hearing aid. A week later we were happy to find out that both parents had shown an interest. The father brought the girl to the office and we made our first trip to Sanjay Special School who specialise in teaching children with special needs. Admission at the school is based on Government evaluations of the children and thankfully the girl had been tested a few years ago. Unfortunately at that point the family didn't follow up, and that was something that the headmaster was quick to point out to the father. Finding and integrating children as early as possible is paramount to their chance of learning and excelling with speech and conversation. Although she is still young at 6 years old, it would have been so much better if she started when she first received the hearing test results. But with many things in Goa, you really do need to fight for the rights and investigate what is available so you can provide the best care in cases like this. Sanjay special school is wonderful in that way, as soon as you enter you can tell that all the staff have the best interests of the children at heart and they provide the best care possible.
This morning was our second visit and there was a barrage of tests to be done during the admission process, to conclude the child's current state in understanding, conversation ability, hearing and general well-being. Background information was taken from her father about the rest of the family, and the child's medical background and overall health. We arrived around 9:15 and were there all morning; all in all it took 3 hours.
As well as getting her admission done, we had also hoped to visit the doctor who specialises in hearing aids. The doctor is just another 10 miles away and we headed straight there after finishing at the school. Last year we visited the same doctor and she was wonderful, so it was great to meet up again and give her a chance to test and suggest the best hearing aid for the child. Last year we bought a digital hearing aid as the boy still could differentiate a little between different sounds, but the girl had profound hearing loss so there was no real point in a digital hearing aid. The doctor recommended a basic amplified version which would crank up the volume to a level which the child could hear. During the fitting and testing the young girl was a little fidgety and a little too easily distracted, so it was difficult to know how much of an effect the hearing aid was having. We settled on one and were told that she should have small sessions to get used to the hearing aid and encourage her to link the new sounds with activities; clanking petal pots, or children's laughter etc. Everything is new to her and will take quite a while to get used to but we hope this new chance to hear and attend a school designed to allow deaf children to integrate more will give her a fantastic chance to grow into an accomplished student.
The hearing aid was just about £100 including the doctor's fees and a few extra batteries. We wish her all the best and hope that when she starts school in June she will have become accustomed to the hearing aid and makes good use of it at school.
Many of our supporters might not realise that all the school uniforms we give the children are actually tailored. All the schools have strict patterns and styles which require them to be tailored. Thankfully, the tailoring isn´t too expensive with both shirt/shorts or shirt and skirt being tailored for around £3. There is still the extra cost of the material, each school provides samples of the material they use and it's a matter of dredging through the maze of shops in Mapusa to find a suitable and affordable cloth merchant to supply the material. Before we buy the material all the children need to be measured; our tailor is very kind and comes to meet the children at our base in Mapusa. So far he has been on two separate days and we have managed to get around 75 children measured. It actually feels like more as both days were really busy and very tiring. Paulina has made her jeep available to ferry the children back and forth which has been a great help and has also been on hand to help the tailor locate them on the list (She does like her lists!) and so the tailor can jot down their measurements next to their name and school.
Most of the remaining children we haven´t had chance to measure have already headed off to the villages for a little break but hopefully they will return well before the new school year to allow the tailor enough time to complete the order before their first day back at school.
The new school year is fast approaching and we are hoping to help 100 children with their educational needs. This is quite a large number especially when you consider that in 2014 we helped just 25 children and last year we had planned to help just 50, but ended up with around 80 which was a huge amount of work for our very small team. The thought of 100 seems scary but at the same time wonderful. Since starting this blog, the number has already passed 100 as more and more children and parents approach us for help.
This year is a little more organised and fingers crossed we should succeed. We have already got most of the 100+ school bags bought and are letting the children choose which they would like. We like to empower the children as much as possible when we can, so choosing their own bag gives the children a sense of ownership of the items.
We have also created a 'Goa Outreach' form so we can collect all the children´s information this year. Last year we had around 35 new children and it was a little rushed so we didn't have all the children´s background information. This year we will take copies of their ID proof, so we can ensure names are spelt correctly which is surprisingly difficult. Even their govt ID´s often have names spelt differently on different forms which adds to the confusion. We are also taking family histories, parents names etc. This started over a month ago and the interest in our educational project has been great. The good thing about the work we do is that the children are so enthusiastic about us that they and their parents tell friends and extended family. This is a lovely way to show their trust in what we do, but it does mean we always have more children to help than we can actually deal with. It is really difficult turning children down but you have to draw the line somewhere.
We are now in mid April and the schools have mostly come to an end with only a few older children still attending classes for extra support which will help them to a running start next year. Along with the summer break comes the summer heat! April, May and June are usually the most uncomfortable months as the heat and humidity build before breaking at the start of the monsoon.
The heat and humidity in itself can be truly draining and uncomfortable for the average household but for those living in the slums it is even more troubling due to their small single room houses and low roofs. This increase of heat and humidity causes everybody to sweat more, and the increase in sweat and heat can cause Miliaria, more commonly known as 'Prickly heat'.
Prickly heat is a rash caused by blocked sweat glands often the result of excessive sweating and hot and humid weather. Babies and children are more prone to it due to their sweat glands not yet being fully developed. When sweat gets trapped it causes an itchy rash with a prickly or stinging sensation. In serious cases it can also interfere with the body's heat regulating mechanism and can cause heat exhaustion which can also lead to heatstroke.
Each year to combat this we provide the children with 'Prickly heat powder' which is a cooling powder similar to talcum powder, which as well as cooling the skin with menthol, fights bacteria which helps prevent the blocking of the sweat glands
Recently I was contacted by THE VOICE KIDS - INDIA, who were looking out for children to perform in their upcoming singing reality show that will be broadcast on one of India´s biggest television stations. The show will be open for children aged 6 to 14 years of age and as the title suggests, it will be for children who have a talent for singing. The invitation to participate from the show asked for a small video of anyone who wanted to participate.
We weren´t actually sure which children if any, had a talent for singing, but after asking around we found one girl who had a passion and the voice to go with it. We asked the parents´ permission to make sure they were happy for the girl to participate. When they agreed we quickly created a small clip of the girl singing and sent it off.
A week passed and then we got a reply asking for another couple of videos to be sent. Unfortunately the timing was a little off as the girl had to return to the village to take part in her sisters´ wedding. On her return she stopped by and we made two more small videos of her singing Hindi songs.
All three of the songs were of her singing a cappella with a few friends just off camera occasionally joining in. She loved the opportunity and I hope you can tell from this small video she certainly has personality and the voice. We wish her all the best. We hope she will get a chance for a proper audition, but even if she doesn´t it´s a great opportunity to show off her talents and for Goa Outreach to support her if this is the direction she wishes to go.
Here is one of the songs she sang for the researches.