Locally audiologist Sheri MacGregor had the nice experience of seeing – up close and personally – the value of her volunteer work, with Friends of Life International, during her most recent trip with the group to the Dominican Republic.
The experience happened last November, during her third mission with the group which is based out of Pembroke, Ont., when a youth she had helped out five-years earlier revisited to get newer hearing aids.
She noted Pedro, now 16-years-of-age, was speaking and using sign language, as opposed to when she saw him as an 11-year-old, unable to speak because his hearing loss had prevented him from learning to talk. She said he was also texting on a cell phone while chatting with other teenagers who were helping the audiologist volunteers communicate with their patients.
“Seeing that Pedro had grown up to be a normal teenage boy made my whole trip worthwhile,” MacGregor, from Highland Hearing Clinic Limited in Antigonish, said.
MacGregor talked more about the group and volunteer trips which are made, annually, to Yamasa, Dominican Republic.
“Between myself and Nadia (Tymczyszyn – also from Highland Hearing) we’ve been there five times in total,” MacGregor said.
“It’s audiologists mostly from Ontario but some from the Maritimes as well. Just people who are interested; they get added to the list and then, if the timing works out, they go. We just all take turns going.
“I feel like I always have to go back because there is a little piece of my heart down there,” she added.
“You get to know the local families you stay with and the community. They’re our patients and that’s what I like about it, we’re not going in, dropping off hearing aids and going to another country. We’re going back to the same community every time, following up with people and seeing the progress … it’s very fulfilling.”
MacGregor noted they bring hearing aids as part of their efforts, some of which have been purchased and others donated from patients in their respective clinics and offices.
“Actually, I have a few patients who donated some of their older model hearing aids when they replaced them,” she said. “They would say, take these to the Dominican if they’re any good to you and I actually did that this time.
“And I teach a class here, an aural rehabilitation class, and a lot of clinics charge for that course but with mine, instead, I ask for donations to the group Friends for Life International. It’s associated with the Grey Sisters (of Immaculate Conception) there; a lot of the Sisters of St. Martha’s are familiar with the Grey Sisters, so they know who I’m talking about.
“I’m just very appreciative of the donations made monetarily, or of hearing aids, from my patients … it was all put to good use.”