This February, a team of volunteers including Oticon audiologists Kelly Cedor and Denise McLeod, and Oticon Hearing Foundation ambassador Braden Baker, set out to Flores, a town in Guatemala’s northern Petén region. The humanitarian mission trip with Entheos helped many people with 285 donated Oticon hearing aids. Working with Dr. Paty Castellanos, the only audiologist in a country of 17 million people, the group tested newborns at the hospital, conducted school screenings on students, saw over 220 patients and fit nearly all of the hearing aids.
“The hard work is paid off in the smiles and joy of the people receiving hearing healthcare for the first time,” explained Denise McLeod, who is an audiologist at Oticon. She said that putting her skills to work in Guatemala and being a part of an Oticon Hearing Foundation trip is life-changing. “The light that comes on in their eyes when they can hear well for the first time is indescribable—and reminds us why we got into this field in the first place!”
With such a productive trip, the volunteers still came home feeling as if they too gained so much from their time in Guatemala. “I went there to give back, and I received so much more in return,” said Kelly Cedor, Oticon audiologist. “My heart was very full when I left the wonderful people of Guatemala and all the amazing volunteers with whom I got to share this experience. There were so many memorable moments. The woman crying into the green towel when we turned on the hearing aids, the young girl who jumped into my arms, the pastor, the young mom, and the time I spent with all the volunteers who made me feel like family.”
Meet some of the wonderful people the team supported in Guatemala
A pastor who lost his hearing as a result of cancer said that the most difficult part of having hearing loss was not being able to hear his people. He felt very emotional at the idea of being able to hear the congregation again—and very thankful to the team.
Oliva, a mother to five children, had experienced moderate hearing loss in both ears for five years. She traveled for 30 minutes to get to the team hoping they could help. She was fit with two Oticon Opn S1 devices. The team says, “When we told her we were going to give her two hearing aids, she lit up.”
When this little girl first had her new hearing aids turned the aids on, she still was not responding to claps behind her, not attempting to mimic any sounds; she just continued to play with the dinosaur toys. That’s when the team brought singer/songwriter Jonathan Hutcherson, a 2018 Oticon Focus on People Award winner and Oticon hearing aid user, in to play guitar for her. It still appeared as if there was no response until she suddenly jumped off her grandmother’s lap and wrapped her arms around Kelly. Kelly says, “It was a moment I will never forget.”
Meet Esmeralda, who is now giving back to her own community
Esmeralda was fit on a previous mission trip three years ago. She now comes back as a volunteer on the trips. Because she could hear better, she went back to school and is now a teacher. The Oticon Hearing Foundation was able to arrange to send her new hearing aids, and in this video, she shares her appreciation.