October 2014 Afghanistan

There are two U.S. military bases in Kabul, connected by a well-worn path where troops move peacefully between the two, often escorted by local children. The service members call these children their “guardians” and often form lasting bonds them. While stationed in Afghanistan with the U.S. Navy, Starkey Hearing Technologies’ Director of Sales Operations Keith Becker walked this path with his own guardians and saw in their eyes the promising future of a nation. When he finished his tour of duty and returned to the U.S., he swore to himself that one day he would go back to help the children of Afghanistan achieve their dreams.

Starkey Hearing Foundation, in partnership with the Bayat Foundation, opened the door for Becker to keep his promise with our first hearing mission in Afghanistan. When Bill Austin asked Becker if he would like to volunteer, he jumped at the chance to volunteer. While he has joined our team in the past, this hearing mission held powerful and personal significance because it gave him the opportunity to give something directly to the guardians … the children of Afghanistan.

The Bayat Foundation helped us reach out to local schools to find hundreds of students struggling with hearing loss. One after another, the children sat in our chairs, received the gift of hearing and walked away with big smiles and a new sense of possibility. However, one young girl who met Becker would not walk away. As soon as she heard him say, “ba ba ba,” for the first time, she wanted to be that voice for all the other children. She spent the rest of the day working side-by-side with him, easing each child’s nerves and making her voice the first they heard. At the end of the day, Becker thanked this young leader for helping to build a bridge between our team and the students and giving us all hope for the future.

Our team was surprised and inspired to see so many schoolgirls among the crowd. In Afghanistan, the closer you are in proximity to the central government, the more likely you are to find girls being educated, and with Minister of Education Ghulam Farooq Wardak and Minister of Health Dr. Suraya Dalilin in attendance, it was clear to everyone that the Afghani government was dedicated to ensuring girls a good education. Our team spent three days fitting more than 1,700 customized hearing devices to girls, boys and adults in need.

Special Thanks

Bayat Foundation; Dr. Robert Dean; Barry Quinlivan

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