Due to her previous work with the Bayat Foundation, Mary Baumgarten of Food for Kidz accepted an invitation from the Bayat Foundation to travel to Kabul, Afghanistan to participate in an event two years in the making. While visiting Food for Kidz in MN, Ehsan and Fatema Bayat were introduced to the Starkey Foundation, and the plans were set in motion for the Starkey Hearing Foundation to travel to Kabul. Food for Kidz in Stewart, MN has worked closely with the Bayat Foundation in the distribution of millions of meals throughout the provinces and cities of Afghanistan. The food is distributed in hospitals, schools, and orphanages.
Food for Kidz has worked closely with the Bayat Foundation in the distribution of millions of meals throughout Afghanistan
During her recent visit to Afghanistan, Mary’s movement was restricted because of security concerns. However, restricted travel and a tight schedule didn’t stop her from visiting a school with Mrs. Bayat. The lack of any desks, chalk boards, and paper didn’t deter the teachers from still trying to teach these children. The Head Attendant at the school kept reiterating how the children’s health and capacity for learning had improved since receiving the food from Food for Kidz.
Along with the Starkey Foundation and Bayat Foundation over 850 children and adults were fitted with hearing aids and given the gift of hearing. Previous to our visit, 600 children were identified as needing hearing aids and impressions taken of their ears. These children were then bussed to the Bayat Media Center compound in Kabul where our teams fit each child with their personalized hearing aids. Children who had never heard before were able to hear for the first time. The excitement in their eyes and surprised expressions on their faces when they heard their first sounds was very moving.
Communication was a challenge. However, the combination of sign language interrupters and English translators helped us to effectively communicate with our clients. Only providing the service for 2 days limited our exposure, but the word spread throughout Kabul quickly. We had over 300 Afghans walk-in patients on the second day. These walk-ins were mothers with children, elderly, and teenage children. One mother brought in her four children who were all hearing impaired, and she was able leave the event with all four children able to hear for the first time in their lives.
Needless to say everyone was extremely grateful; the mother who could hear her child for the first time, the teenage boy who could hear music, the little boy who could now hear his voice and joyfully proclaimed by giggling and shouting “Ba, Ba, Ba”, LOUDLY to everyone, and the children amazed that the water fountain in the courtyard made noise! These are only a few of the examples of gratitude we experienced. Many were still silent, but the gesture of their hand over their hearts and tears spoke volumes.