Kerry Downes (96-05) was fortunate to travel to St Joseph’s School in Sierra Leone in November 2013 through the charity Soundseekers. Kerry who studied Audiology at Leeds University and now works as a Specialist Audiologist in St George’s Hospital in London was leading a project to target the diagnosis of hearing loss in at risk children and to provide support those who are found to have significant hearing loss.
Often infants and children in Africa lose their hearing from diseases, or the drugs used to treat them, such as malaria and meningitis but there is very little audiology expertise available to detect and treat any problems resulting in poor or no speech development and even abandonment by their families.
Kerry’s time was mostly spent training practitioners to carry out hearing tests using equipment purchased by Soundseekers, as well as liaising with medical staff at different hospitals and spreading awareness of the project. The school offers hearing-impaired children a place to be accepted, and a real chance in life. It receives no government funding and relies entirely on public donations, therefore money is a constant concern. A third of the children are borders, therefore all meals need to be provided, as well as 24 hour staff support. The Soundseekers project will mean that more children are being diagnosed with hearing loss, therefore it is essential that the school stays open in order to offer the required support.
Kerry commented “It was a really inspiring trip and I was impressed by the resilience and charm of the people I met. The children at St Joseph’s laughed and played like any other children, despite suffering unimaginable hardships and prejudice. It was very humbling.”
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