Audios Amigos It all started when my daughter Kris decided she would like to be of service to those in need. She heard of two orphanages located just inside the Mexican border, Casa de Cunas and Casa Hogar, which house over 100 children from infants to 15 years of age. Nuns from ... Academic Edge
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Academic Edge  |   October 01, 2001
Audios Amigos
Author Notes
  • John Ribera, is associate professor in the department of communicative disorders and deaf education at Utah State University. Contact him by email at JRIBERA@coe.usu.edu.
    John Ribera, is associate professor in the department of communicative disorders and deaf education at Utah State University. Contact him by email at JRIBERA@coe.usu.edu.×
Article Information
Hearing Disorders / Healthcare Settings / Professional Issues & Training / Academic Edge
Academic Edge   |   October 01, 2001
Audios Amigos
The ASHA Leader, October 2001, Vol. 6, 1-20. doi:10.1044/leader.AE.06192001.1
The ASHA Leader, October 2001, Vol. 6, 1-20. doi:10.1044/leader.AE.06192001.1
It all started when my daughter Kris decided she would like to be of service to those in need. She heard of two orphanages located just inside the Mexican border, Casa de Cunas and Casa Hogar, which house over 100 children from infants to 15 years of age. Nuns from the Catholic church operate the orphanages. They have little financial support from the local government or outside agencies. Medical support is non-existent. It is not uncommon during the winter months for several children to die due to lack of medical treatment.
Kris set to work recruiting and organizing others in her community to help make 100 quilts and gather donated medical supplies that she subsequently delivered to the orphanages. Kris, her husband, and three children made several trips to the orphanages in the ensuing weeks and chronicled the events each time.
As my colleagues at USU and I heard the reports from Kris and saw the videos of the children, it occurred to us that the audiologists in our department could and should do something to help. We suggested a humanitarian effort be mounted to support the orphanages. Two faculty members and five graduate students in audiology decided to drive down to Tijuana and screen the children. Once the word got out about the needs of the children, the local chapter of the National Student Speech Language Hearing Association began to gather toys, clothing, school supplies, and other materials from throughout the surrounding area. Eventually, 18 boxes of materials were gathered and shipped to the orphanages. One enterprising Boy Scout from Logan, UT, decided to make 50 lap boards for the children as an Eagle project. In addition, over $200 in cash was collected and donated directly to the orphanages.
A Change in Plans
Shortly before leaving for their trek, the faculty was informed that due to a miscommunication with the orphanages, no children would be available for testing on the agreed date. Because preparations had already been finalized for the trip, an alternate plan had to be quickly conceived. USU faculty immediately contacted Mexican Medical, a Christian health ministry in San Diego, and explained the situation. Timely arrangements were made for the USU group to travel to Tijuana and provide hearing tests for underprivileged men, women, and children.
On the appointed day, three volunteer translators joined the contingent of faculty and students and we began our adventure. Everyone was impressed by the stark contrast in standard of living between the United States and the border town of Tijuana. The sight of thinly clad children and adults foraging through a local landfill will not soon be forgotten. It was not long before the group was on a wide, pot-holed dirt road en route to a local clinic. There were unforgettable images such as shanties that served as housing, junked and abandoned cars that dotted the landscape, and skinny wooden poles that local residents climb and rewire as needed in order to provide electricity to their homes.
When the group arrived, the clinic was filled with over 30 patients who had been waiting for some time. The facilities were adequate, but woefully below any acceptable standard in the United States as evidenced by the dust on walls and floors, unfinished walls, and limited indoor plumbing. Nevertheless, the USU group felt welcome and needed as Dr. Garcia, the medical director of Centro Medico Coccera Bethel II Clinic, greeted them. Dr. Garcia had previously made arrangements for their safe and direct passage through customs at the border and had notified many local residents that a special hearing clinic would be held. After a short strategy meeting, the team set up makeshift screening areas in some of the exam rooms and in a delivery/surgical suite. Students aided by translators and faculty took histories, performed otoscopy, tympanograms, screening audios, and otoacoustic emissions.
Reflections
When the day was over, the group had seen 53 patients and 75% of them were referred for further evaluation. As they gathered up the equipment, the team paused to reflect upon what had just happened. When asked how they felt about the experience, the graduate students, without exception, expressed appreciation for the opportunity to use their skills and for the feeling of having done something for others that they could not do for themselves.
Upon their return to Utah, the faculty provided Dr. Garcia with a detailed written report of their findings on each of his patients. In addition, contact is being made with an ENT and audiologist in Tijuana, inviting them to assist in the follow-up for Dr. Garcia’s patients and asking them to provide physicals and hearing screening for the children in the orphanages.
It is hoped that this experience will inspire other colleagues to get involved in humanitarian efforts in their area of expertise. There is no need to go out of state or out of country to find those in need. There are remote areas in each state that are underserved. We at USU are currently collaborating with researchers at Minot State University in North Dakota, examining the possible application of telehealth technology to provide audiological services to remote locations and underserved populations. The initial results are promising. This is a wonderful time to be in the field of audiology. We look forward to what the future will bring.
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October 2001
Volume 6, Issue 19