The Sun Shines in Peru

Disney actress Caroline Sunshine recently joined our team in Peru to help give the gift of hearing. Embodying her family name, she worked hard from the first patient to the last with a big smile on her face and learned some lessons along the way. We recently sat down with her to discuss the connecting power of hearing and the transformative nature of giving back.

How did you first become involved with Starkey Hearing Foundation?

I’ve always had a desire to be a part of the bigger picture. I’ve always felt a need to be of use to other people. With Starkey Hearing Foundation, I really feel like I am able to be of use to others. I heard about the Foundation through a friend. I went to the Foundation’s website, and I was blown away by the work you do around the world. Not only for people with hearing loss, but also the work you do to connect people. So I immediately felt this need to get involved, connect and be of use.

How has your hearing loss impacted your life?

I was really passionate about dance growing up, and dance is one of those activities where hearing happens to be crucial. I was in dance class, and I was doing fine, tapping my feet and having a great time, and my teacher went over to my parents and said, “She’s great and really happy to be here, but she’s kind of off the music.”

Everyone else was doing one set of movements, and I was about three counts behind. That is how we found out that I had a hearing loss.

When my hearing loss was corrected, my dancing improved. I was happier, and I felt more connected to the dancers around me. I was more connected to music. It changed my whole life and what I am able to do now. Because of this, I can understand how people in different parts of the world who do not have access to the same resources might feel frustrated and limited. But in Peru, I saw the relief and joy felt when patients could hear all the sounds and everything around them.

Was there a patient that was special to you in Peru?

We saw hundreds of patients that came from all over Cusco. One of the highlights of my experience was fitting a 9-year-old girl who had a hearing loss in her left ear. We did the hearing test, and said, “Ba ba ba.”

You can always tell in someone’s eyes when they are connecting with you. I connected with her, and she lit up. She heard. For me that is a huge deal because Tani Austin made me aware of the fact that around the world most kids with hearing loss are immediately relegated to schools for children with disabilities. These children might only have a partial hearing loss, but there’s not really a place for them to be. Now that this girl has two working ears, the possibilities for her education are open. The possibilities for her life … I’m so excited to see where she goes, what she does with her life.

What were you most inspired by during the hearing mission in Peru?

One of the reasons I was really excited to join Starkey Hearing Foundation in Peru was because the actual work that we did was fitting patients with hearing aids, but how we did it was by reflecting caring and connecting. That’s the big picture, and what I am most passionate about in the Foundation’s work – reflecting care. As Bill Austin says, “When we reflect care, we nourish each other’s souls and give each other the strength and encouragement we need to meet the challenges ahead.”

When you reflect care to someone, maybe they will do the same for someone else. In Peru, we didn’t change the world, but we changed people’s worlds.

I hope that when kids my age watch the work that Starkey Hearing Foundation is doing, they feel inspired to do the same and that their life can be of use. I hope they are inspired to look beyond their own backyard and their own city to see the world and that they are one piece of a really big picture that they can contribute to.

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