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Celebration of Service

Breaking the sound of silence

In Indonesia, Rina Jayani Rahmadi helps parents of hearing impaired children

According to the United Nation’s World Health Organization (WHO), there are almost 300 million people in the world who are hearing impaired. That means that the number of people around the world who have a moderate to profound hearing impairment is close in size to the population of the U.S.

Three hundred million is a large number, but Rina Jayani Rahmadi, a mother of three and an IBM sales operations professional in Jakarta, Indonesia, is doing all she can. She started Indonesia Hear Foundation to help a growing group of about 100 parents whose children are hearing impaired. For Rina, though, it all started with helping just one little boy.

Finding hope

Everything seemed fine when Rina’s son Ramzy was born in 2002. Even though he would react to loud sounds, Rina suspected something wasn’t right when Ramzy hadn’t started talking by the age of two. After some testing, doctors told Rina that Ramzy had only slight hearing in one ear, and was deaf in the other. Rina, her husband, and Ramzy were sent home with minimal advice and support on what to do next, and how to deal with this life changing situation.

For a brief period Ramzy went to a special school, but Rina felt the approach was too rigid for a child barely three years old. She thought there must be a better way. “Many people believe that sign language will be the only way someone with hearing impairment will be able to speak, and for some this is true,” says Rina. “But I went to the Internet and I learned about auditory verbal therapy.”

Auditory verbal therapy (AVT) teaches someone to speak using their hearing through a hearing aid or implant. Rina discovered an AVT practitioner in Jakarta and quickly had Ramzy start the therapy. She says, “Early intervention is very important for AVT to be as effective as possible. You cannot be too young to start as long as there is some hearing.”

What started as a sad, frustrating and frightening time in their lives turned into one with hope. “I remember every sound Ramzy was making—every ‘um’ and ‘ah, he made after he started AVT,” Rina says. “I cannot tell you how happy I was when he started saying words and speaking. It was incredible.”

They are not alone

Today Ramzy attends a regular school, is learning the guitar, wants to play baseball, and often speaks—yes speaks – to audiences of parents and children who are learning how to deal with hearing impairment.

Rina remembers those early weeks after discovering Ramzy’s hearing impairment and believes that much of her feeling of helplessness could have been avoided. So, in 2006, when others asked her to share her experience and knowledge, Rina agreed and the Indonesia Hear Foundation was born.

The foundation holds monthly workshops with invited speakers—Ear/Nose/Throat doctors, psychologists, therapy practitioners—who donate their time to talk about issues related to hearing impairment. When specialists aren’t available, parents—experts in their own right—share their experiences with other parents, giving them inspiration and motivation.

“We help the parents learn how to choose the right hearing aid, and teach their children the importance of wearing it,” Rina says. “Many children get self-conscious or stressed about the hearing aid, and letting the parents know about behavior management is important. We want both the parents and the children to know they are not alone.”


Full-time hearts

In 2007, the foundation pursued the donation of a cochlear implant to help a family whose children had a history of hearing impairment. A cochlear implant is a small electronic device fitted inside and around the ear that can give a person bits of sounds and help them understand speech. The implants are very expensive and according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, only about 220,000 people in the world were using them at the end of 2010.

The Indonesia Hear Foundation was granted two implants, one of which went to the original family. The other was given to Rina and her son. “I was shocked and surprised,” Rina recalls.

“Ramzy has the confidence to speak in front of many people,” she says. “We’ve had a chance to speak to many groups over the last few years to talk about hearing impairment, and it is an enormous impact for parents to see a hearing impaired child talk to them.”

In 2008, the foundation, with Johnwei Muljono as the chairman, secured a donation of 500,000,000 IDR (about $60,000 USD) to buy hearing aids for needy children. Today they are hoping to garner another donation for a group of children in need. As a measure of success, Rina says that “More and more hearing impaired children under our foundation's guidance are able to study at a normal school. I'm confident that these children's future should be better.”

Meanwhile Rina is trying to identify a better location for the foundation’s monthly workshops. “We are very happy to have a place today, but a more central location, like something where the IBM building is located in Jakarta, would allow us to attract more parents who need this support.”

She adds, “We all have other jobs that keep us quite busy, but our hearts are full-time with the foundation and helping parents know that hearing impairment is not the end of the world. Our plan is to help more needy children get hearing aids and therapy.”

IBM is marking its centennial year with a worldwide celebration of volunteer service. Throughout 2011, IBM invites everyone to join our global community of employees, retirees, families and friends as we support the communities where we work, live and learn together.