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January 13, 2003

Rotary collects hearing aids for Dominican Republic

From: Central Maine Daily Sentinel, ME - 13 Jan 2003

By AMY CALDER, Staff Writer

WATERVILLE — Old and even broken hearing aids that may be of no use to area residents can be a miracle for deaf residents in the Dominican Republic.

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The Waterville Rotary Club is asking people who may have hearing aids collecting dust in drawers to donate them to the club so that they may be taken to that country to be used by deaf children and adults, according to Rotarian Karen Heck.

Heck said the local Rotary is working with Roger and Elizabeth Fagan, an audiologist and speech pathologist, respectively, who with help from the Portland Rotary Club, went to the Dominican Republic last year.

More than 3,000 people in that country are deaf, according to Heck. She said that in one week, the Fagans were able to fit 165 children, infants and adults with hearing aids obtained from donations of unwanted hearing aids in the Portland area.

"Now, the Waterville Rotary Club is working to collect more for the Fagans' trip this February," she said.

She said that during the Fagans' first visit, they realized that there were many more people needing hearing aids than they had on hand. Residents came from all over the region to the National School for the Deaf in Santiago, hoping to obtain hearing aids that would allow them to hear what was going on around them.

"Young and old, as families and alone, they traveled to the school and waited patiently for help, some as long as six days," said Heck, who herself has done work in the Domincan Republic.

"With so many people needing help and not enough supplies, the Fagans made the difficult decision to fit the children first," she said. "For their upcoming trip, they are looking for hearing aids of all types — working, broken, old, clunky, whatever — they can put them to good use."

Heck said the couple also needs new batteries. A donation of $50 will provide enough batteries for one child with two hearing aids, for one year.

She said churches have been most helpful in getting the word out, and Rotarians hope that will be the case in Central Maine.

Anyone who wants to donate hearing aids, batteries, or funds is asked to drop them off at Care and Comfort, 105 Kennedy Memorial Drive, Waterville, or send them directly to Dr. Roger Fagan, 985 Forest Avenue, Portland, Me., 04103, according to Heck.

Officials from the local committee gathering hearing aids say the project represents a win-win situation.

"People are happy when they can turn their junk into treasure, and for the children of the Dominican Republic, living in one of the poorest countries in the western hemisphere, these old hearing aids truly are treasures," said committee Chairwoman Sally Harwood. "It's a gift we're happy to help provide."

Copyright © 2003 Blethen Maine Newspapers Inc.