Sakhib has a big, shy smile on his face as he listens to him mum, Inja, talk about the changes she has seen in him since he was diagnosed with a hearing impairment and fitted with a hearing aid. They live in a small village in the far east of Nepal, a few hours’ drive from the nearest eye and ear hospital in Biratnagar.
‘I wasn’t confident that he was learning at school. Now I test him with numbers and he writes them down correctly. He goes to the market for me. It builds his confidence to talk to the vendors. I make sure to give him larger notes so he has to count the change…’
Sakhib is thirteen years old and currently completing year four at school – his favourite subject is Nepali. His school was not providing any extra support or special provisions because they did not realise that he was falling behind. Sakhib would dutifully copy down everything written on the board and his sister would help him with school work at night, but he was not keeping up because he was struggling to hear the teacher.
From a young age, Sakhib would not react when Inja spoke to him and he rarely spoke. He was bullied often, even teased by his close friend. When his mum asked his friend why he did that, the friend replied ‘it is the only way to motivate him to speak and react’. Inja knew Sakhib could defend himself and recounts her response to him with a smile ‘you only have yourself to blame when Sakhib stand up for himself!’
His mum had spent a lot of money on local doctors and traditional healers, she had even travelled to India with Sakhib but no one was able to diagnose him. It was only when a community health worker visited her house that she found out about the CBM supported Eastern Regional Eye Care Program which was now providing ear care. Sakhib was referred and the tests confirmed what his mum had always known and he was provided an assistance device. The hearing aid means Sakhib is now doing better at school and he is more confident with his friends.
The journey is not over yet. Sakhib still struggles with speaking as he only now has the opportunity to fully hear himself and those around him speak. His family and friends practice with him, but more support for hearing impairments in Nepal is required. Thanks to CBMs ongoing support for this project, we will continue to see this grow and impact on more children like Sakhib and their families.
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