More than a thousand Boholanos became recipients of hearing aids given freely by Starkey Hearing Foundation, in cooperation with IDEA Philippines.
George Dennis Drake, founder of IDEA (International Deaf Education Association) Philippines, made contact several months ago with William “Bill” Austin, Founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Starkey Hearing Foundation, the “other half” of Starkey Laboratories, Inc., the United States’ largest manufacturer of first-class hearing aids.
Through their telephone conversations, a partnership was created and a pact was sealed to give free hearing aids to Boholanos, a mission and an avocation to both men who have worked most of their lives creating a better world for the deaf.
Just last December 6, a six-member audiology team from the Starkey Hearing Foundation personally headed by Bill Austin came to Bohol all the way from the US. They were accompanied by nine audiology student volunteers from the University of Sto. Tomas (UST).
Their Bohol trip seemed a disaster at first when the airplane they chartered missed the taxiway and one of its wheels got buried three feet under the mud.
Luckily though, they were able to book another flight; and when they arrived in Bohol, they forgot about the incident and cheerfully worked until 10:30 in the evening just to serve the throng of people eagerly waiting to receive their hearing aid gifts.
Their philanthropic work lasted for two days as they gave away free hearing aids to Boholanos, as earlier promised.
“Our goal is to change the social consciousness of hearing through education and research while providing the gift of hearing to those in need around the world,” Bill Austin was earlier quoted. Because, he added, “I don’t believe in disabilities, I believe in ability.”
“Hearing aids cost from P2,000 up to P20,000 per piece, depending on classifications,” Frederic Rondeau, Starkey’s International Country Director, said. And according to him, Starkey does about 100,000 patients a year and gives away about 200,000 hearing aids a year worldwide, for free.
Basically, Starkey can’t go into any country without a partner, so it has to forge partnerships around the world to fulfill its mission of providing a better world for deaf people. Hence, its partnership with IDEA Philippines was a very welcome proposal, Rondeau added.
For this first mission in Bohol, the two foundations have spent P4.3M. They first agreed on giving away 500 hearing aids, but “people just kept coming and we just couldn’t turn them away.”
Peter Alexander, an NBC News correspondent, once described Bill Austin as “one man who has helped thousands, by showing hearing is a road to the heart.”
Rondeau also described the Real Bill Austin as 100% helping people.
“Bill knew that hearing aids are very expensive because Starkey Labs manufacture them; so he knew he had to become a Robinhood ‘to provide people with dignity’.”
On the other hand, IDEA Philippines has 285 hearing-impaired kids in its dormitories in Loon, Talibon, Sagbayan, Jagna, providing them with proper education and thereafter, suitable employment through its employment arm, Garden Café.
Rondeau assures Boholanos that they would be continually coming back for Starkey’s partnership with IDEA is a continuous process, an “umbilical cord,” just like its relationship with its sister company, Starkey Labs.
As what Bill Austin once said, “alone we can’t do much, but together, we can change the world.”