Angie’s Ethiopian Hearing Mission Experience

During each Operation Change episode last summer, viewers were given the chance to join Starkey Hearing Foundation on a future hearing mission trip. Angie was the show's Ethiopia trip winner and joined the team there in October. Read our Q-and-A with Angie below where she shares just a glimpse into this amazing experience!

If you missed Pete’s Tanzania hearing mission story, check it out here.

Q. Tell us a little about yourself and your background.

My name is Angie and I am from a very small town in northwest Missouri. I have six children (three boys and three girls) and six grandchildren (three boys and three girls). My family is my life. Everything I do revolves around them.

I am a retired pediatric nurse where I worked in the area of hematology/oncology and bone marrow transplant. When I worked in my profession as a nurse, I considered it to be part of the person I was, not "my job" or something I had to wake up and go do. It used to be the most amazing experience in my life. Now I have a new most-amazing experience! Operation Change gave it to me by including me on a hearing mission to Mekele, Tigray Ethiopia.

Q. How did you hear about Operation Change? Do you have a favorite episode?

I was just flipping through channels one night and came across Operation Change on OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network. At first, as I was watching the episode, I was just intrigued. As I kept watching it, I was overwhelmed with so many emotions; it was just amazing. The second episode was the first one I ever saw. I was sad, happy, dismayed, hopeful, upset, but most of all I was inspired. I was hooked and in love with Operation Change that night. In fact, during the show I went to the website to learn everything I could about the series.  

My favorite episode is the one that takes place in Ethiopia. The Operation Change team visited the town of Sodo and worked with The Mossy Foot Project, which had a profound impact on me. I wanted to jump through the screen and be there helping along with them! You really see the desperate need in this episode.

I was also touched by the caring heart and giving nature of Bill Austin for the compassion and pure humanity he showed in saving the life of Endrias. The genuine pain and empathy that Steven felt for the families that led him to offer the medical help and other items to help them heal and move forward was overwhelming. He has a heart of gold. They moved mountains for those people and I am so very inspired by them all.

Q. What was it like to find out that you won the contest to go on a hearing mission with Starkey Hearing Foundation?

It was literally a dream come true for me. When I was working as a nurse I had really wanted to go on medical missions. My coworkers would go on these amazing missions to help children abroad and unfortunately I was just not in the position to travel. I was a single mother with six children at home and I simply didn't have the funds. I had basically forgotten about my dream to do any type of mission work because it has never been feasible for me, so when I got the email that I won, I was doubtful out loud, but screaming with excitement in my head (if that makes sense) because I didn't want to get excited if it wasn't real. When I realized it was real I literally cried tears of joy, told all of my family, raced to prepare for my dream trip, and thanked God for being so awesome to me!

Q. Walk us though what it’s like to be on a mission (day-to-day activities, etc.).

The evening we arrived we were invited to dinner with the Starkey Hearing Foundation team. My guest – my sister Lisa – and I sat at the table with Bill and Tani Austin. It was a great experience. I was very honored to have met Mr. and Mrs. Austin. I am so inspired and proud of what they do. Bill presented my sister and I with the most amazing necklace with a pendant featuring a beautiful flowing angel. We were the newest "Hearing Angels.” I felt very honored.

Starkey Hearing Foundation hearing mission days run like a well-oiled machine. After breakfast we rode in vans to the mission site, which happened to be close to our hotel. On the hearing mission days we worked with the Starkey team to fit hearing aids. That was an absolutely amazing experience. To introduce or reintroduce someone to the world of hearing is just an awesome thing to do. It was a highly emotional experience for me, one I will never ever forget and I am so grateful to have been a part of.

We also visited the local market in Mekele. That was quite an experience. There were streets filled with vendors selling their goods including spices, fresh coffee beans, vegetables, animals, scarves, herbs, clothing, perfumes and the like. The townspeople walked up and down the dirt road with their chickens for sale, tied to a long stick by their feet.

Q. Is there one memory from the mission that stood out for you?

Oh my goodness, there are so many! If I had to choose one moment that touched me the most it would the little boy from the town where the hearing mission was located. I don't recall his name, but I can see his face. His father accompanied him to the mission on this day. This beautiful little boy was six years old and had never heard the world around him, never heard his parents’ voices, or a bird sing, or an airplane fly over, the sound of a vehicle, or anything at all. He had been born deaf. This also meant he did not know how to talk.

When I took all that in and also learned that the boy had never been to school, I was absolutely overwhelmed with emotion. This little boy, at six, had never had the opportunity to attend school, to interact with his peers, to learn and play because he was deaf. The little boy knew nothing different. As I broke down in tears, so did his father.

This is where Starkey Hearing Foundation does their amazing work. Tani and I fit this little man with the perfect hearing aids and set them on just the right settings and this little guy heard sound for the first time. He heard his father's voice for the first time ever! He made sound with his little voice and heard it for the first time, ever! Because of Starkey Hearing Foundation’s massive efforts "So the World May Hear," this young man's future is limitless. He can now learn to talk, go to school, grow up with his peers, not be shunned because he was deaf, obtain a job, go to college.

My two hearing mission days were full of these beautiful stories, some not so dramatic, but each one just as meaningful. Starkey Hearing Foundation is making this world a better place for so many people and changing their lives so profoundly. They changed my life as well, renewing my inner fire for humanitarian work. I love and respect them for everything they did for me and are doing for this world.

Q. What was your main lesson or takeaway from the mission?

There are two things: Every person everywhere deserves to be helped, no matter their circumstances. Everyone can help in some way. No matter how small or large the contribution, every effort helps.

By Starkey Hearing