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Working together for hearing impaired

Restoring a degree of hearing can be transformative for those with an impairment, says Sunrise Foundation executive officer Glenda Stokes.

She knows that better than most with the foundation carrying on the work of the Gisborne Hearing Association after it closed in 2016.

Ms Stokes spoke to the Herald in acknowledgement of this week being International Week of Deaf People.

The week is a time to recognise that deaf people have their own communities, own cultures, their own languages and sign languages, which unite us all.

Deaf communities have been expanding and thriving throughout the years.

A recent report commissioned by the National Foundation for the Deaf estimated 880,350 people in New Zealand (or 18.9 percent of the population) suffer from some form of hearing loss.

Ms Stokes said it was wonderful to link up with the deaf community.

The hearing association's work continues through the Hearing Assistance Fund at Sunrise, which was established with the residue funds of the association which operated for 70 years.

The fund invites applications for grants from individuals who are hearing-impaired and organisations that are involved in education or projects which help hearing-impaired people.

The first person supported by the hearing assistance fund was a young tradesman.

Hearing loss has such an impact on a person's life, said Ms Stokes.

It was affecting his job.

The change brought about by the fund was transformative, she said.

Since 2018 the fund has helped 14 people with hearing devices.

The devices can be expensive to purchase for individuals, Ms Stokes said.

It could be “a nightmare” for people on limited incomes.

The nature of the Sunrise Foundation means the hearing assistance fund will grow in perpetuity.

“It's been making a big difference in the district.”

Any donation made to the fund is invested, protected and grown each year in line with inflation.

As a community foundation Sunrise can only retain a maximum of one percent of endowment value each year to cover operating costs.

The surplus investment income is made available as grants.

That means donations will keep supporting those with hearing difficulties in Tairawhiti-Gisborne forever.

Glenda Stokes