Sustainers continue partnership with Al Amal School for the Deaf and Mute
January 18, 2009
COB Adder, Iraq - Soldiers from the 287th Sustainment Brigade and the 3rd Battalion, 133rd Field Artillery Regiment brought smiles and hope to the Al Amal School for the Deaf and Mute in the city of Ar Rumaythah, January 14th .
Lt. Col. Clint Moyer, chief of the 287th Sust. Bde. Civilian Military Operations, and Lt. Col. Richard White, audiologist and 287th Medical Operations Director, spearheaded the visit. The trip followed up on the "Operation Voice of Hope" audiology exams the Kansas-based Sustainers provided for 17 deaf female Al Amal students recently. "We wanted to touch base with the students and parents that we conducted exams on, see what the conditions were in the school and see what
else we could do to help," Moyer said.
Parents and children excitedly surrounded White as he walked through a gate into the school courtyard. They were eager to learn if they would receive hearing aids after their recent exams. "We're looking at various funding sources for hearing aids and hope to have them within the next three months or so," said White.
One of the unique challenges White faces is finding hearing aids that will not interfere with the girl's head coverings. "Most of these girls' hearing loss is significant enough to rate behind the ear hearing aids. Unfortunately, the scarves they wear would create interference and feedback. We're looking at hearing aids they can wear at their waists with wires that attach to ear molds they can wear under their headscarves."
In addition to the 17 girls, there are also 22 hearing-impaired boys who need hearing exams. White intends to conduct exams on the boys when a colleague from another base visits with more sophisticated audiology equipment. "The equipment we have at Adder is very basic. I would like to test the boys with the new equipment for more accurate results."
After initial greetings, Al Amal teachers gave the group a tour of the facility. The classrooms were full of smiling students happy to see the visiting Americans.
"Our generator has been broken for a while now," said Heyem Shakir Saleh, director of the deaf and mute program. "We've had other visitors that said they would fix it, but they never did. God willing, it will happen soon."
The teachers face many limitations. "We need to provide the children with a reason to stay in school. School supplies, coats, clothing -- anything you can provide would help us do that." The school is in need of basic supplies, in addition to visual aid equipment in the classrooms, a needed asset for the special needs students.
In addition to providing supplies and equipment, Moyer intends to partner with the Iraqi teaching staff to update their teaching skills with a week-long conference. "We haven't had any training or teaching updates for several years," Saleh said. Moyer, a special education teacher for the Sedgwick County Special Education Cooperative in Kansas, has a contact, who is working to create training and visual aids for the Al Amal staff.
Al Amal also has a program for the physically and mentally impaired which includes 15 girls and 20 boys. During the visit, desperate parents sought the attention of the Soldiers present, begging them to help their children. They showed the visiting group their children's twisted limbs and anxiously relayed stories of seizures and other various physical and mental issues. They are desperate for assistance.
Moyer explained to Mohamad Muhsen, Director of Al Amal's Physically and Mentally Disabled Program, that White specialized in audiology and was unable to make any diagnosis outside his specialty. Muhsen appeared disappointed, but understood. Moyer assured Muhsen he would bring the children's needs to the attention of the Muthanna Provincial Reconstruction Team and COB Adder's medical team. He also intends to include their five teachers with those from the deaf and mute program in February's teachers' conference.
At the end of the classroom tour, soldiers passed out toys to the children and school supplies provided by the 3rd Bn., 133rd FA Regt. to the teachers, all of which were gratefully accepted.
PHOTOS AND STORY BY SGT HEATHER WRIGHT, 287TH SB PUBLIC AFFAIRS