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May 29, 2003

Thanks to Randolph Rotary, 140 Ukrainian Children Get Hearing Aids

From: Randolph Herald, VT - May 29, 2003

About 140 hard-of-hearing children from Randolph's sister of Mirgorod and the surrounding area received hearing aids last month—most of them for the very first time.

It was an emotional experience for the four local representatives who traveled to Mirgorod to help audiologists from the Starkey Foundation fit the hearing aids.

"I think I became dehydrated from shedding tears," admitted Jean Grout, who was accompanied by Anne Gorman, Irene Schaefer of Randolph, and Cindy Volker of Rochester for a hard week's work in the Mirgorod school.

They also took time to teach the Ukrainians the "Hokey Pokey," according to Grout.

Gorman was representing the Randolph Rotary Club, which conceived and organized the hearing aid project under the leadership of President Randy Garner.

Randolph Rotary secured the cooperation of the Starkey Foundation, a major supplier of hearing aids, and raised the more than $30,000 for the project, much of it from Rotary International's matching program.

Starkey provided the hearing aids at a low price and also gathered a team of audiologist volunteers to go to the school, test the children, make the hearing aids, and train teachers there to make more.

The company has pledged to send replacement hearing aids regularly.

The school is a center for deaf and hard-of-hearing students of elementary and high school age, serving a large region. Previous delegations from Randolph have been very impressed with the management and caring at the school, and how well-behaved and hard-working the students are. The students, for instance, provide the school with much of its food from vegetable gardens on the grounds.

However, the school could afford no hearing aids for its children.

The team was thrilled to find that all but about a half-dozen of the students in the school were able to be helped by hearing aids.

The team also brought supplies and a $500 gift from a Ukrainian living in this country who had heard about the project.

After all the fitting work was done, the Randolph/Starkey delegation was treated to a thank-you program of singing and dancing by both the children and the teachers. The delegation was presented gifts and led up on stage for an ovation.

"The audiologists left in a van from the schoolyard with the children running along the fence waving and yelling," Grout said. "Then we left on foot and could hardly get out of the yard—hugs and tears galore."

"The smiles, the hugs, the tears of joy and words were needed," Volker said. "For me it was the deepest expression of love I have ever felt and was a very powerful force. I have been changed by my experiences in Ukraine."

The next issue of the Mirgorod newspaper proclaimed that "The smiles on the faces of these children today is proof of the noble work of this project."

Other Stops

While in Mirgorod the team stayed at the town sanatorium, a popular vacation spot for people all over the Ukraine seeking healing waters. They also visited several other businesses and organizations.

They discovered that the local music school, which teaches 500 students, does not have a CD player and purchased one with which to play a couple of dozen CDs brought from the U.S. In return, they heard a seven-year-old piano prodigy and a presentation from other children.

They also visited an English-specialty school, the famed ceramics school, the modern water bottling plant, the Baptist church, the Jewish center, and the hospital, bringing gifts for each. At the English school they left a list of Randolph 10 th graders who would like to be pen pals.

They were received by the mayor, as well.

Oh yes—the "Hokey Pokey." That came about at a party thrown by Yvgeny and Natalia, along with a joint singing of Christmas carols and a game of Bingo.

"We left for Kiev loaded with gifts," Jean Grout said. "We had to carry eight bottles of vodka."

Put with article above, artwork, may be coming with russian letterhead.

To the People with Great Hearts:

The following letter was penned by Ivan Petrovich Demianenko, director of the Mirgorod school, and sent back with the Rotary team as a message to the entire Randolph Community:


The happy expressions of the children's faces is the most vivid proof of their appreciation toward all the kind people of good will, who demonstrated to the children with special needs their kindness, generosity, love, and spiritual nobleness.

We were greatly impressed by the high professional level of the team, your ability to work with the children and desire to help people around you.

In our further work with the children, we will use the lesson we have learned from you, the people with Great Human Hearts.

The success of this American-Ukrainian project will serve to strenghthen the relationships between our nations, foster mutual understanding and cooperation.

We express our great desire to continue friendship with you, American people, and American children.

We will look forward your future visits to Ukraine.

Accept our warmest wishes of good health, success, and peace.

By M. D. Drysdale

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