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children • Relate Magazine

How Can We Stop This Incessant Bullying?

By Rick Meeves, PhD, LMFT, Regional Vice President of Western Youth Services for CRC Health Group

bullyingOne need only pay slight attention to the news to realize that bullying is a very visible and chronic crisis in this country.  Gone are the days of this phenomenon being confined to shoving victims in the junior high hallway or prank phone calls late at night.  Today’s bullying – which Webster’s dictionary defines simply as “abusive treatment” – consists of relentless personal assaults across worldwide social media platforms that permeate much larger audiences and exist for eternity.  One recent bully even sickly celebrated the victory of her victim’s demise on her social media page.  Historically unprecedented. Culturally shocking.

Bullying can occur with little to no adult awareness on both sides.  Social media and texting combine with immature impulsiveness to allow the intensity and secrecy of bullying to exceed anything previously possible.

What can we do to stop this behavior?

There is much evidence that higher parental support and engagement are associated with less involvement across all forms and classifications of bullying – the more involved a parent is, the less likely their child is to be a bully or get bullied.  Parental  involvement is necessary early and throughout our kids’ school years; it’s said that the frequency of bullying acts peaks between grades 6 and 8, and spikes during transition from one type of school to another (e.g., elementary school to middle school).

Parents also should provide and optimize opportunities that build effective emotional coping, social functioning, and general resilience in their children.  Instill self-confidence in your kids at the same time as teaching them the tried-and-true golden rule of doing unto others as you’d have done unto you.

The sad fact is that bullying has persisted (even multiplied) despite legislation and many larger-system programs – including an entire awareness month – to combat it.  A large degree of suggested solutions fall within the realm of structural/systemic interventions; the idea is to reduce systemic forces that facilitate bullying.  Each person is invited to examine their role in supporting, perpetuating, or merely failing to combat bullying.

Unfortunately, some children and families report that these common “barrier approaches” do not seem to work for them.  For bullies, seeing their victim get angry or upset and trying to retreat behind “the barrier” is seen as “winning.” This reinforces them to continue the behavior; people have a tendency to continue to play games that they win.  Often times, children report that bullying increases when they have reported it, even in areas with well-developed anti-bully plans and legislation.

Structural interventions can be effective, however, when combined with training bullying victims how to beat “the game” of bullying.

Parents would be wise to teach their kids the “anti-bully attitude,” a concept derived by Izzy Kalman, a school psychologist and psychotherapist.  Bully victims can learn to act nonchalant, unaffected, unoffended, and mildly bemused by their aggressor/bully.  This is not the same as ignoring the bullying, but it is responding to bullying in a way that does not reinforce the bullying cycle.  Basically, kids tease each other because they enjoy watching their target get upset.  The more upset the target gets, the more fun it is to tease him or her.  In addition to encouraging children to report bullying and then punishing bullies (the “barrier approach”), parents and educators need to teach children not to be victims in the first place by not allowing the bullies to upset them.  After all, if a bully calls a kid names and the kid convincingly acts like he doesn’t care, it is the bully who will look foolish.  When they aren’t winning by getting the child upset, it ceases to be fun for them, and they will move on looking for other targets.  If you don’t get mad, you win.  It’s that simple.

This combination of barrier methods and game training appears to be significantly more effective at reducing bullying than barrier methods alone.  In addition, parental engagement – most importantly providing sufficient monitoring, guidelines, and boundaries for children’s internet and texting activities – is critical to beating the bullying war.

As always, seeking the advice of a trained mental health professional is recommended for assistance, or when efforts to deal with bullying have been exhausted.

Dr. Rick Meeves, Ph.D., LMFT, is the Regional Vice President of Western Youth Services for CRC Health Group, the nation’s largest provider of addiction treatment and related behavioral health services. Dr. Meeves oversees six of CRC’s residential and wilderness youth treatment programs and has nearly 20 years’ experience working with families and teens.

A Passion for the Pen

By Wilson & Kesmine Hickman

Kesming_Wilson-Hickman Is writing your passion? Do you enjoy creativity? Are you interested in publishing a story, but not sure how? As teen sibling authors, we would like to share advice on penning and publishing your works. Our books, The Adventures of Detective Luke series (by Wilson Hickman) and the Luna: Puppy Detective series (by Kesmine Hickman) resulted from our immense love for creative writing. This passion originated in our younger years, when we frequently and avidly read as well as crafted stories revolving around other authors’ characters. Eventually, we began molding our own characters and plots.

When engaged in creative writing, the first important element to consider is inspiration. As a matter of fact, inspiration can spring from anyone or anything. Writing about ideas that excite you can significantly boost the quality of the story. For example, the individual personalities of our Shih Tzu dogs influenced the animal detective characters in our series. Likewise, it is essential to focus solely on creativity when initially developing a story. Do not worry about editing. Do not worry about publishing. Just write the story down. Inspiration and imagination come first; the business side of writing comes later.

Detective_Luke_#2_coverThe pLuna_Puppy_Detective_#2_coverublishing process, notably more difficult than the writing process, is nevertheless worth the work. For The Adventures of Detective Luke series and the Luna: Puppy Detective series, we decided to use self-publishing. This enables authors to have full control over their projects. As a result, the book turns out exactly as envisioned. For instance, during the editing process, writers have the freedom to accept or reject changes suggested by the editor. Similarly, the author has the ability to design both the interior and exterior of the book. Although publishing requires a large amount of time and effort, the end product will ultimately bring great satisfaction.

In short, fictional writing starts with an imaginative idea that blossoms into an impassioned story. Once the story is written, self-publishing allows you the benefit of controlling each step of the process. So if you enjoy creative writing, do not be afraid to use your talents and follow your passion. What are you waiting for? Pick up your pen and get started!

 

Kesmine and Wilson Hickman are high school students who love reading, writing, being active in their church youth group and playing with their Shih Tzu dogs. Both of their books have earned awards from the 2013 Purple Dragonfly Book Awards. To learn more, please visit our websites: www.wilsonhickman.com or www.kesminehickman.com

Only Make Believe

by Tamela Aldridge

Only Make Believe Only Make Believe is magical.  Only Make Believe is creative.  Only Make Believe transcends space and time.

I’ve had the pleasure of being an actor with Only Make Believe since 2008.  Only Make Believe is a non profit organization that creates and performs interactive theater for children in hospitals and care facilities.  I love the idea that for 45 minutes children & parents can forget where they are and why they are there, and simply, play and have fun!

I remember playing as a kid and creating amazingly fanciful tales of fun and adventure. I have one older brother and we used to play endlessly together—until he discovered girls and football when he started Jr. High. But alas, my solo adventures continued, and with my then unbridled and fearless creativity, my imagination soared!

NYUHJD_Kimberly-and-childChoosing a career as an actor was an easy decision for me. I’ve always loved to play and to become someone else; my desire for storytelling has always led my path. My family was totally supportive and part of “Team Tamela” from the start, even though I could see in their eyes the fear and doubt of what could possibly lie ahead for me. I accepted their love and support, but I also unknowingly embraced their fears as well. Those fears became the first of many weights that began to hamper my soaring flight.

Over the years, the “weight” of this business has manifested itself into my life in many ways. There have been some wonderful highs and devastating lows. Many weights have been added: doubt, insecurity, betrayal, resentment, frustration, unfairness…the list can go on and on. But that desire to play, to become, to tell stories is still there…deep inside. It’s why I do what I do!  That’s why I love being a member of Only Make Believe!  So, I continue on my journey as an actor and even though it may be weighted down, I still manage to fly. But something was missing…

I discovered recently what that missing piece is: MY ability to believe!  When I truly believe, blessings happen and dreams come true.  I now manage my life not only as an actor, but also as a wife, mother and ambassador for Only Make Believe’s expansion office in Washington, DC., which launched in March 2012.  As people, we all have this gift! The gift of manifesting your dreams.  We use our imaginations to shape our dreams and desires.  So, whatever you strive for…just state it…claim it…but most importantly, BELIEVE IT and watch it FLY.

That is the essence of the magic we create at Only Make Believe.  Providing this service free-of-charge to hospitals, children & parents, Only Make Believe allows children to unlock their imaginations to believe, to engage, to spread their wings and to soar!

[You can also find more on Only Make Believe, here: http://www.onlymakebelieve.org/index.php]

Find Respect, Truth and Love with Your Parents

Find Respect, Truth and Love with Your Parents

By Dave Hamilton

mom-and-daughterThere are many relationships between parents, children and siblings that have lost their moral value due to evil and destructive behavior against each other. The root of the confusion is the unfortunate, regretful and sometimes shameful secrets that have been kept by past generations. Other simple factors are parents who show a preference within their offspring.

The first seven years of a child’s life is so important, parents or guardians must realize that whatever they do and say in front of their child will stay with them for the rest of their lives. Many of us believe we may be able to do wrong and evil to one another without a direct effect on our lives. Unfortunately, our conscience and soul will be confronted in a strange way due to our selfish actions. Our past is a precursor to our future.

We all must try to learn about each other as a family unit and build a strong bond. Although things could be difficult and our minds may be set, there is a solution to most problems. During my research, I came across many families who’s relationship has been in tatters for many years, especially those who born in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’.s Ignorance is the biggest part of our actions. One of the most common situations is when a woman finds herself in tough relationship with a child’s father, she would normally take her frustration out on the child. On the other hand, some men get frustrated because their actions have put them in a responsible place. With many other unfortunate dilemmas, this has been on-going  for many of years from generation to generation. This is a legacy needs to be stop. We must find respect, truth and love.

Punished for Purpose

Punished for Purpose: Her Way of Helping Teens

by Lauri Burns

To date, I have raised as a foster Mom 30 teens (who came to me at points of despair in their lives) and I have learned most of my ‘skills’ from hands-on experience and from my own worst nightmares.

Background information:
Growing up in Long Island, New York in an upper class Jewish family, who would have ever guessed my life was a horrific behind the scenes.  It would appear that I  had everything a kid could want: home, food, family and friends. My mom told me I was around 3 when the beatings began.  Whenever my dad was in ‘a mood’ he would come looking for me.  I was like the punching bag that most guys keep in the garage.  As a child, I believed I was a witch in a past life and that the beatings were payment for my sins. I failed to bond to people.  The abuse, coupled with the fact that no one was protecting me, solidified my belief that people could not be trusted.  I was 13 when my mom left us in search of a new life.  That was when my father’s violence escalated.  One day he began to beat me failing to notice that I had a friend in the house.  Then everything changed.

Afraid that he would get in trouble, he hid a handgun and told the police I threatened to kill him with it.  I was committed to a mental institution for the criminally insane.  I tried to kill myself several times.  In order to protect me from myself, they tied me to a bed in a straight jacket in a solitary room and kept me drugged.  By the time I was released, the damage was done. On a suicide mission, I spiraled.  I was made a ward of the court and sent from home to home.   Unable to rebound from my circumstances, I started shooting intravenous drugs at the age of 16.  The drugs helped to push the memories away.

I gave birth to my daughter when I was 19, but even my love for her couldn’t save me.  On January 5, 1987 after being arrested for prostitution several times, I was taken into the woods by two gunmen with the intention of beating and killing me.  Not being able to endure one more beating, I begged them to shoot me.  That night my life was saved by a stranger and within 24 hours I was in a safe shelter.   I believe that man was an angel.

In that safe shelter, for the first time in my life I began talking about my childhood.  I learned that I had protected my father at the price of killing myself.   Slowly but surely I began to see that I had value and that ‘maybe’ my dad was wrong.

Two years later, at the age of 26 I took in my first abused teenager.  I knew at that time this was my calling.  It was around that time that a man who really believed in me asked me this question “Lauri, Do you know the difference between you and Gandhi, Mother Theresa, and Martin Luther King Jr?”   I was intrigued.  He said, they didn’t just think about doing things, they did them.  That’s it.

He also said “If you put fleas in a jar and close the cover, they will hit their heads on the lid. After a few hits they will jump short. When you release them from the jar, they will continue to jump “short.” No matter how long they’re out of the jar, they will never return to their full potential for fear of hitting their heads. Lauri, you are living your life like you are still in the jar.”

That was when I lifted the lid off my life and starting believing everything was obtainable.  I let go of all preconceived limitations. My daughter that I had when I was 19 is my best friend.   Having so many sisters over the years, when she graduated high school – she knew she wanted to help other kids that were abused.  She graduated from Columbia School of Social Work in 2009 with dual master’s degrees in Social Work and Special Education.   She now works as a teacher in a school for developmentally disabled kids.
To see the way the foster kids come to me – in many cases, broken and withdrawn and then to experience the changes as they start to come alive again is life changing for me.  I included two stories – from my kids.

STORY ABOUT A LIFE CHANGED.
I interviewed a 15 year old girl at the children’s home.  She was dressed in a black sweatshirt and she had the hood over her head so I couldn’t see her face.  She had been cutting on her arms and was severely depressed.  When I interviewed her, she said she wasn’t interested in living with a family or coming home with me.  Six months later, they called me again – they said they have not been able to place her and asked if I would just give it a try.   I was a bit reluctant due to her lack of interest in any sort of change, but I told them I would give it a try, but I really didn’t think she was ready.  When I picked her up, she was still the same, same sweatshirt!   She literally wore that dirty black sweatshirt over her clothes every day.  I had four other teen girls in my home at that time.

I have learned a lot both from my past and the experiences with other abused kids I have.  As a mom I am always dishing out positive statements to the girls because I know they so desperately need it to build their self esteem.   Especially when delivering bad news or consequences, my daughter Summer calls it “A pat and a kick”…. Bad news is always better delivered in a shiny wrapper.

So, if one of the kids doesn’t do their chore I might say, “Hey, I see you left your dish in the sink.   I’ll tell you what, if you leave it again – you are going to stay in and do extra chores on Sunday.”  Before they can respond I might say something like – that tea you chose at the store is wonderful!  You have such great taste!   It is a bit confusing for kids who are used to being yelled at or beaten to get bad news with a compliment.  You will actually see them freeze the first few times, not knowing how to respond.    It is confusing that they broke a rule and you are not mad at them.   When the rule=consequence and I still love you and I am not mad at you – it takes the fear and transference of anger out.

If they continue to tell me why so and so did it and not them.  I will continue then you will be both be grounded unfortunately… by the way – your hair looks really good this color. Did Suzie help you?   Each time they try to slip the responsibility – I reapply the consequence with a sugar coating.   I take my kids out to dinner a lot.   It is a good time to get away and talk.  We talk about life, school and family.  I teach them about the cycle of abuse and that their parents are not bad people just sick.  I also talk a lot about what Gandhi says… Being the change in the world.  In my book I talk about going from an abused child to the “change in my family” by being a stand for love, truth and forgiveness.   I have contracts for almost everything with rules – consequences and rewards.

I am sure we have all seen the parenting style where we tell our kids what they are GOING to do because WE ARE THE PARENT!   And we all know it works as well as a sinking ship. Teens, whether abused or not – are all tuned into the same channel WIIFM – What is in it for me.  My contracts all include rewards.  And as a parent if I commit to something I follow through.  I also sign the contract myself and let them know – I will be MY WORD and will honor any commitment I make to you.

When this little girl entered my home she was very shy.  She spent a lot of time in her room.  I tend not to push people out of their comfort zone.   Respect is important for all ages, especially teens.  If you respect them, they will respect you.    I could get her to come out if we were leaving the house to eat, go the gym or shop.  So, I used those opportunities.
Kids will test you, especially abused kids.   It was a few months after she moved in with us that she came out of the bathroom with pink hair.  I knew she expected a rise out of me.  I tend to “under react”.    Truth be told, for all I’ve been through – there is not much they can do to get a jolt out of me.  I smiled and said, “You know… that looks really cool!  It actually brings out the color in your cheeks… I love it!”   She said, “Really…?” and tilted her head to see if I was kidding.  I affirmed, I really think that is one of the coolest colors I have ever seen and it work on you!   She smiled shyly and put her head down.

The girls and I will never forget the day she walked out of her bedroom with a pink shirt on.   We were all too nervous to bring attention to it for fear that she would return to her room and grab her black sweatshirt again, but let me just say – everyone noticed!   There was a hum of excitement in the air.

Over time, she came out of her shell.  She was 16 when she told me that she dreamt of being a Fashion Designer.  She said she got her first sewing machine when she was 12 and she showed me an old newspaper clipping of a woman who went to FIDM (Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising).  She had been carrying it around all these years!

Last week at a Teen Project event, she spoke to 150 people from the podium.  She said, “I moved in with Lauri when I was 15.   I never got to know my real mom.”  I was standing up there next to her and I could feel the pressure in my throat and my eyes started to water.  It kills me the sadness that these kids endure….  “When I told Lauri about my dream to go to FIDM, I didn’t think she would go for it.  It’s a private school.  I thought she would make me go to community college.”  Then she looked down shyly and smiled I just graduated from FIDM and I work in Los Angeles as an Assistant Fashion Designer.  I am living a dream life.   I just moved in with my best friend and I have the best life ever.    Then she looked and me and looked away really quick when she saw the tears in my eyes.   She said, “Lauri is my mom.  I never would have made it without her and I love her”  That is when we both broke, makeup dripping and all….

She is an amazing incredible bright light!  You would never recognize her if you knew her before.  She is completely transformed.

ANOTHER STORY FROM MY BOOK – PUNISHED FOR PURPOSE
REWARD:  HEALING HEARTS TOGETHER
It was 2am in the morning.  I heard a noise in the hall bathroom.  At the time, I had five teen girls living with me.  Unaware of what is happening, I avoided turning on the light.  As I reached the bathroom, Rita came into view.  Her body was drenched with sweat; her hair was pressed against her face. She was screaming and banging her head against the wall with an intensity that it hurt me to witness, I rushed to her. When she saw me she screamed out, “WHY?!!!!  Why did my mother leave me? Those men hurt me!  I can’ sleep!  They’re here again!  She slammed her head against the wall over and over again. All of a sudden I am twelve again. I am in the bathroom; my dad is at the door. I remember the pain of my head hitting the tile floor over and over again…. Bang! Bang! Bang!  I am shaking. Having processed no thought of what to do next, I am catapulted back into the bathroom with Rita. And I have an innate awareness of what to do next…

Do not turn on the light, scary…no light…talk quietly…no big noises……Do not touch…Touch is scary…I quietly whisper into the darkness. “I am here with you sweetie…it is okay now…the bad man is gone… We are on the other side now…no more hurt honey…no more bad people here…Please don’t hurt Rita anymore…” The creaking of a door behind me interrupted the intensity of the moment. My eyes now adjusted, I turned my head. I see Mary quietly tiptoeing from her room. Her large eyes tell me she is scared.  I put my finger over my lips as if to say, shhhh. Now Yvette is coming. Quietly they collapse to the floor, falling into the darkness by Rita. The only sound is Rita’s heavy rhythmic, breathing. She is rocking back and forth slowly with her arms wrapped tightly around her legs and her head tucked between her knees. The girls gently put their hands on Rita and they too begin to cry. They are hugging each other. Rita lets out a soft cry and hugs them in return.

Although the small room still remained dark that night, the light in the room was undeniably brilliant as we walked together out of the darkness. Wiping the tears from Rita’s face, we all stood up together and walked downstairs.  Although I don’t normally encourage smoking, this is one night I would let the mountains be mountains and the little things lie. As they sat in the garage, passing the cigarette around with their wet faces, I closed my eyes and thanked God.

Thank you God for letting me be twelve again, thank you God for my father. Thank you for my little bathroom so long ago, for it is in the pain of my childhood that I have been blessed with the power to take the hand of a child who is in the darkness; and lead them out. Thank you for having me go before them and showing me the way out…
I realize now I was never being punished for sins in a past life, but rather prepared for the work I would do in this life.  I have the most amazing life imaginable!  I wouldn’t trade it with anyone.  It is the memories from the darkest times of my life that I must draw from to help the children that enter my door.

I write a lot about the methodology for growing a community that cares in my book.    I always imagined there was a reason that I was in technology and a foster mom, although they seemed so far removed from each other.   In the end of my book I wrote, I believe that someday my two lives will merge and I will use technology to reach kids regardless of location.  At the time, I had no idea how.  About two years ago we created a national online shelter database and replicated it through Myspace and Facebook, but I knew there was more.
Last March a brilliant developer that works for me at Northrop Grumman and one of his friends decided they were going to help me.  The proposed a text service where a homeless youth could text SHELTER and their ZIP to 99000 and they could use an algorithm to return the closest shelter with 40 seconds.  They said they could do it for under 10k.  I was thinking GREAT!  But where do we get the money?   The very next day, a letter came in from the Harry Joe Brown Foundation… It said, Sorry we forgot you last year.  We are sending 10k for last year and 10k for this coming year; use it where you need it most.  Every since I founded The Teen Project in 2007 this is how things happen!

I have spoken at over 200 venues in the past five years to tell my story and the stories of my children.   People have always said to me, “You should write a book!”   At the time I thought, when would I ever find the time… ?

Then one day it hit me… In my one hour speech, I inspired people with “our story” but I was barely scraping the iceberg about HOW it happened.   If I could tell the exact details of how I transformed and went on to transform my kids… then I could reach abused kids and parents struggling with their own teens all over the world!  I started writing.. two years later, I held the book in my hand – Punished for Purpose from out of the darkness came a powerful healing light.    And of course… 75% of the proceeds go to the kids.

Lauri Burns is a corporate executive at a Fortune 100 company, an inspirational speaker, a mother to over thirty troubled foster children (drugs, prostitution, cutters, eating disorders and behavioral disorders) and the founder of The Teen Project, for homeless youth, which she established in response to her overwhelming feeling that no matter how many teens she fostered, it was never enough. She is a part of Oprah’s Angel Network and has been approached by multiple networks for a feature, movie rights and pilot show.  It is her dream that no teen should ever be without a safe home or a family

Giving Hope to One Another

Giving Hope to One Another

By Blakely Colvin, Founder of Cupcakes for Cancer

Blakely Colvin is a winner of The Barron Prize for Young Heroes, which honors young people ages 8 to 18 who have made a significant positive difference to people and our planet. Each year, ten national winners each receive $2,500 to support their service work or higher education. The nomination deadline is April 30. For more information  visit http://www.barronprize.org/ or find them on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/BarronPrize

Through my experience of creating my own non-profit, Cupcakes for Cancer, I have seen how important it is to believe in myself and to have others believe in me. A simple idea of just selling simple homemade $1 cupcakes can make a difference if people believe in it and if I also believe in my ideas & dreams!

Everyone has their own individual beliefs and it is crucial that people stand up for what they believe in and make change by spreading their beliefs to others.  For me, I believe it is important to help and love others who are in need. I see how people lack love from others and I want to change that. Creating my national outreach called “Frosting Hope across America” has given me the opportunity to spread my beliefs and inspire others to give and create change in their town/state. My non-profit has gone far because my parents have supported me.

Even though it seemed unreal at the beginning I believed that I could make a difference. I knew I wouldn’t be able to cure cancer but I knew I could make a small rippling effect by just giving HOPE to those in need and put a smile on a child with cancer’s face. No matter how small a change, it is still a change in this great big world and it is so important to not loose hope in people. The experience of creating a non-profit, giving back and being involved in the day in and day out organization has been life changing for me! The Lord asks us to, “Stand up and be counted on”.

Commitment helps shapes us into open-minded caring people. The feeling that comes from helping is so special that it stays with you. By giving our time we learn about the human cause and end-up becoming better people. I have also learned every dollar counts-that it all adds up! Who would of thought CFC could raise $85,000 by selling $1 cupcakes?  Having my own non-profit has pushed me to step out of my comfort zone when it comes to being in front of a crowd! Public Speaking has become a new skill I have been forced to learn! I have been asked to speak at events-sometimes to accept awards like: Volunteer of the Year Santa Barbara County Award Luncheon, Rotary Clubs, Make-a-Wish events, Soroptimist International of SB Luncheon, Ally Kattz Town Hall Meeting UCLA-to inspire teens, Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation luncheon and at my high school to donate two $1,000 college scholarships from my non-profit.  Both speaking and being interviewed have helped me feel more confident. December 2010, NBC’s The Nate Berkus Show invited me to come on their television show to share my story. My mom and I got to fly to New York. The show helped spread the word about Cupcakes for Cancer and my national campaign Frosting hope Across America-to inspire others to bake & donate too. Last Spring I received The Prudential Spirit of Community Award- I was the top California high school State Honoree. I was honored in Washington DC along with the other 49 state honorees.

In the end it is not about the funds raised or the awards received, it is about the HOPE we give one another. My cupcakes represent Hope to kids with cancer everywhere!

Marlee Matlin Joins The Starkey Hearing Foundation To Deliver the Gift of Hearing to Africa

Marlee Matlin Joins The Starkey Hearing Foundation To Deliver the Gift of Hearing to Africa

Marlee Matlin, Africa
Picture (Device Independent Bitmap)

On March 11, Marlee Matlin, Oscar-winning actress and cast member of this season’s Celebrity Apprentice on NBC, joined the Starkey Hearing Foundation in Kenya (Nairobi) and Uganda (Kampala), to support the Foundation’s 24-day hearing mission to Africa, which will deliver more than 20,000 state-of-art hearing devices to children and adults across the continent.

The Starkey Hearing Foundation is dedicated to building better lives for the hearing impaired by providing hearing instruments to those in need.  Matlin is a long-time friend of the Foundation and has participated in previous hearing missions. During her four days in Nairobi, Marlee Matlin assisted with the fittings, while encouraging, communicating and celebrating with the recipients during every step of the process.

“It’s truly joyous for me to be present when a child receives their hearing device and is able to hear his or her mother’s voice for the first time,” said Matlin.  “The work that Starkey is doing to bring hearing care to those who need it is remarkable and sorely needed, since hearing loss affects more than 63 million children worldwide, but for many can be corrected with the right care.”

Led by Bill Austin, Chief Executive Officer, Starkey Hearing Laboratories, and Founder, Starkey Hearing Foundation, a team of audiologists, hearing professionals and staff will visit schools for the deaf, hospitals and communities in Mombasa, Kisumu, and Nairobi (Kenya); Kampala and Gulu (Uganda); Ruhengeri and Kigali (Rwanda); Bujumbura (Burundi); Pemba Island; and Zanzibar (Tanzania).

The Starkey Hearing Foundation’s Africa Hearing Mission is one of dozens of missions conducted each year both domestically and internationally.  All missions include the distribution of hearing aids and batteries, custom fittings, audio testing, and counseling on how to care for the devices. This is the Foundation’s second mission to Africa in two years.  In 2010, the Starkey Hearing Foundation Africa Mission spanned 30 days and covered 14 cities across five countries including Kenya, South Africa, Botswana, Tanzania, and Mozambique.

About The Starkey Hearing Foundation

The Starkey Hearing Foundation is striving to change the social consciousness of hearing and hearing loss prevention.  Hearing loss affects one in 10 Americans, and 63 million children worldwide, yet many do not have access to the hearing devices that can help correct that disability.  Each year, the Foundation delivers more than 100,000 hearing aids through hearing missions in countries stretching from the U.S. to Vietnam.  Since 2000, the Foundation has supplied nearly 500,000 hearing aids to people in need and is striving to achieve its goal of distributing over one million free hearing aids in this decade.  In addition to giving the gift of hearing, the Foundation partners with Best Buy and the Grammy Foundation to promote ‘safe hearing’ and hearing loss prevention among teens and young people, through its national program, SoundMatters.  For more information on the Starkey Hearing Foundation, visit www.starkeyhearingfoundation.org.

Lumos- The Light at the End of the “Wand”

Lumos- The Light at the End of the “Wand”

By DeAnna Britton

Lumos (J.K. Rowling)

Lumos (J.K. Rowling)

Picture courtesy of: www.the-leaky-cauldron.org

For all you Harry Potter fans, there’s now another way to support J.K. Rowling, however, there’s no need to be a wizard in order to help. In 2005, J.K. Rowling and Baroness Emma Nicholson founded the Children’s High Level Group to help children in Eastern Europe grow up in a healthy family-like environment. Today, the organization is called Lumos, it was named after the light coming from the wizards’ wands in Rowling’s Harry Potter books. Rowling is currently the Chairperson for Lumos. The organization works in Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Georgia, Moldova and Montenegro and is still expanding.

The goal of Lumos is to make sure that children are raised in a safe environment where they are cared for and are kept away from large institutions. They believe that all children of any ethnic background, any income level and ability and deserves the same chance at a safe, happy childhood.

The organization has two different approaches to achieving their goals. The first approach is to strategize. Lumos provides technical assistance , a telephone support system, toolkits and manuals to people working in the countries that are most affected by the children institutions. These practitioners help close down these institutions and replace them with a better care place for children. The second approach is to campaign their cause. Not only does Lumos spread the word to the UK and Europe but they spread the awareness all over the globe. They also work and listen to children so that they have a voice in the deinstitutionalization that the organization does.

“Twenty years ago, as Communist regimes across Europe toppled, harrowing images of Europe’s hidden children began to emerge. Thousands upon thousands of children were living in vast, depressing institutions – malnourished and often maltreated, with little access to the outside world. Slowly governments have begun to transform care systems. Real and lasting change takes time, but today we are putting down a marker and calling for significantly more progress in the next twenty years to ensure that eventually no children are living in, or at risk of entering, such institutions,” Rowling said according to looktothestars.org.

On International Children’s Day, taking place on June 1st, Lumos wants anyone and everyone to light a birthday candle for the thousands of children that can’t celebrate their birthdays because they are in institutions. Some children don’t even know when their birthdays are. People are encouraged to hold “birthday parties” to help raise money to work towards the goals of Lumos. You can reserve a awareness-raising pack by calling 020 7253 6565 or email fundraising@lumos.org.uk .

Other ways you can help the organization is by making a donation, asking a company to support Lumos or taking part in an event or help raise awareness. You’re never too young to help the world and its children. They could be someone just like you.