SRU alumna fulfills mission to help Hondurans to hear
Leigh Ann Heisey, right, a 2018 Slippery Rock University graduate, recently traveled to Honduras to assist the Delta Zeta sorority and the Starkey Hearing Foundation to fit hearing-impaired people with hearing aids.
Jan. 9, 2019
SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - Life for nearly 1,200 hearing-impaired citizens in the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa changed dramatically last November when a team of sorority members from Delta Zeta partnered with the Starkey Hearing Foundation to bring the gift of hearing to them.
Founded on the campus of Miami (Ohio) University in 1902, Delta Zeta is an international college sorority with more than 266,000 members worldwide and 170 chapters throughout North America. The sorority prides itself on its philanthropy in speech and hearing.
The SHF is a nonprofit organization that collaborates with governments, nongovernment organizations and health leaders to make hearing services more accessible to people around the world. To date, they have provided hearing aids to people in more than 100 countries.
"Speech and hearing have been a part of Delta Zeta since our earliest philanthropic efforts, beginning in the 1920s," said Christy Phillips-Brown, national president for Delta Zeta. "Our partnership with Starkey takes our national philanthropy of speech and hearing to a global level by supporting their mission of bringing simple, sustainable and scalable solutions to provide hearing solutions worldwide."
It was because of that mission that Leigh Ann Heisey, a 2018 Slippery Rock University graduate with a bachelor's degree in athletic training, ultimately found a home with SRU's Delta Zeta chapter, Zeta Phi.
"I fell in love with this organization because I loved what they stood for and I was given the opportunity to put myself in the shoes of those who were hard of hearing," said Heisey. "I couldn't imagine a life without music, (the voices of) loved ones or simply listening to a professor lecture. I wouldn't be able to be an athletic trainer without being able to hear and communicate with (clients)."
The national chapter of Delta Zeta makes the gift of hearing a reality for thousands through its annual "Heart for Hearing" fundraising event that was launched in 2015. Last spring, Delta Zeta chapters across the country participated in an event-related contest to accompany the national chapter to Honduras. Through her fundraising efforts, totaling $600, Heisey earned a spot on the travel roster.
"I had dreamed of traveling with Starkey since I joined Delta Zeta, and I think that message was very clear to my friends and family," said Heisey. "Ever since I became a sister, I always felt that just fundraising wasn't enough for me. I wanted to be more hands on, more involved. When the spring fundraising competition rolled around with a chance to win a spot on the mission trip team, I knew I had to give it my all. Finding out I won a spot was an overwhelmingly amazing feeling."
During a Nov. 2-9 international mission, Delta Zeta members joined SHF staff and volunteers to fit Honduran citizens with hearing aids at a clinic stationed at a military base in the capital city.
"Such a great number of people were so determined to receive hearing aids that they traveled on foot for days just to visit the clinic," said Heisey. "Every one of my patient's stories touched my heart in such different ways. It was important to me to learn a little about them and make their experience go as comfortably as possible.
"My most memorable patient was a younger boy who was told that he was not able to go any further in his schooling because they were no longer able to provide a signer for him. Fitting him for hearing aids wasn't just giving him the gift of hearing but was providing him with the stepping stones to a better future and continued education.
"Personally, my time in Honduras was an eye opening experience for me. Each patient reminded me how grateful I am and humble I should be for the life that I have been given. There are moments when I think life becomes too challenging but then I remind myself just how small the problem is and how fortunate I am to have my good health."
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