Sunday, October 11, 2009

JDC Facilitates Turkish-Israel Cooperation for Hearing Impaired Children

Source Link - JDC Facilitates Turkish-Israel Cooperation for Hearing Impaired Children

Sevgi Yüksel’s little boy was 8 months old when she first suspected something was wrong. She noticed that her child was having trouble hearing.

“We frequently consulted with pediatricians after that,” said Yüksel, who lives in Istanbul with her family. “By the time he was 1 ½ years old, the nature of his impairment became evident, and I was told that my son needed special training.”

Initially, Yüksel didn’t know where to turn.

“I didn’t have any information about how we could do this. I learned everything about my son’s care by doing my own research, and one of the most important things I discovered was that there was an institute in Israel that helps families like mine get the training and information they need.”

Yüksel was referring to the MIHA Center for the deaf. Through a JDC initiative launched in 2007, the Center has been engaged in an international cooperative effort to improve the lives of hearing impaired children in Turkey by lowering the age at which these impairments get identified, and by encouraging families with hearing impaired children to begin the rehabilitation process as early as possible.

Recently, Yüksel, a member of the Turkish Association for Hearing Impaired Children and Their Families, was part of 22-member group of specialists, professional trainers, and social workers invited to participate in a special 10-day training program at the Israel foreign ministry’s MASHAV Center [of International Cooperation]. The group also visited Israel’s MIHA Center for the deaf, and met with professionals and academics who work with deaf children. She was impressed and inspired by what she saw.

“They respect impaired children’s individuality,” Yüksel said of the JDC-facilitated program, which is empowering participants to better assist with the social integration of children who are hearing impaired. “They create a stimulating learning environment that gives happiness and pleasure to children. Music, art, games and animal therapies are used to motivate them through the use of sounds. Best of all, families participate in the training programs. I completed the program feeling more empowered as a trainer and a mother.”

Modeling Programs and Leveraging Israeli Expertise
This project, which receives valuable support from MASHAV, is one example of how JDC helps connect Israeli expertise with pressing social issues in other countries to improve the lives of both Jews and non-Jews. Given the many similarities in Turkish and Israeli culture and lifestyle, the outlook for the training effort is especially promising, according to MIHA President Vicky Ozromano. The Turkish delegation chose to adopt the MIHA model after conducting an extensive review of multiple models for teaching and integrating children with hearing impairments.

A center, based on this model, is opening in Istanbul this month.

“Dreams come true when you don’t give up and others support you,” Ozroman said. “I strongly believe that the new center will change the lives of hearing impaired children and their families in Istanbul.”

For Yüksel, change has already come.

“I have good news for families,” she said. “We’ve returned from Israel knowing that our children can go forward and that we can make the world a better place for them to grow and achieve. We have the tools; now it’s our responsibility to ensure that, from this moment, children with disabilities have every opportunity to succeed.”