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Off-Site to On-Site: An Amplified Experience
Junior Meghan Hurley has returned from a life-changing endeavor in Toluca, Mexico.
Meghan, an intern with Starkey Hearing Foundation in Eden Prairie, Minn., recently had the opportunity to travel with the foundation and help distribute hearing aids to about 2,000 people in need. An organizational management and marketing double major at UMD's Labovitz School of Business and Economics, Meghan worked as an intern at Starkey over the summer, planning and organizing the off-site logistics of several missions that Starkey executes annually around the world.
The first week she started at Starkey there were no missions in action. She was able to shadow and watch the teams perform their off-site duties and preparation. Eventually, she took on more responsibility and completed independent work. Meghan said, “Starkey really makes you feel like you belong and are an asset to the foundation.”
“When I went on this trip, I was technically a volunteer. I was a fitter for the hearing aids, but I got the opportunity to shadow on-site logistics. I know everything from the back end of these missions, so it was cool to see how they all came together and played out on-site,” said Meghan.
Starkey is in constant communication with their partners all over the world. Learning to speak and interact with people of different cultures and perspectives helped Meghan with communication at school during group and collaborative projects. Meghan said, “It taught me a lot about patience, and how my actions and words may be perceived by others.”
The trip allowed four days to fit over 2,000 patients with hearing aids. The people that came to the site traveled miles and waited for hours to get the hearing aid that they normally could not afford or have access to where they live. A majority of the patients were elderly with a higher frequency hearing loss, but there were also a lot of children.
“These people were the most kind and humbling individuals that I have ever met. They were wonderful,” said Meghan. “There was one women that I fit for hearing aids in her early 40s; when she was finally fit for the correct frequency, she burst into tears. She had an 18-year-old son and 8-year-old daughter, and she had never heard their voices. She told me that she was so excited to finally get a job and be a good mother.”
Meghan also fit a 17-year-old girl that had hearing loss and only had an elementary level education. In areas of poverty, hearing loss is treated as a disability, and individuals with hearing impairment are often put into a special education programs. The girl was successfully fitted for hearing aids giving her the opportunity to finally get a good education.
GETTING DOWN TO BUSINESS
Each mission day lasted 10 hours. The staff would leave around 7:30 am for set-up and on-site planning and be done for the day around 5:30 pm. Patients came from all different regions of Mexico; however, Starkey visits there a lot and have a system that works. This was Meghan’s first time being in Mexico; however there was no resort life. The Starkey members spent their time connecting with the people and the community.
“Knowing that this kind of work makes a difference in people’s lives is the best part. Getting to be the person who impacts someone’s life has greatly changed my perspective. To have that duty be your permanent job is really cool,” said Meghan.
She explained that the most difficult part of the experience was communicating with everyone. “We had translators, and some were better than others. It’s really important to communicate with the patient because you want to make sure you aren’t overpowering them with sound,” said Meghan. “It was difficult to have patients that we unfortunately couldn’t do anything to help them. Once you get to a certain level of power on a hearing aid and it still doesn’t work, then we can’t do anything else.”
Meghan is returning to Starkey next summer and maybe even after she graduates. Interns are typically considered for full time positions because they have spent the time in the foundation learning the logistics and skills.
Meghan will be graduating next fall. “My prior classes on organizational structures and behavioral management have really helped me with my internship. I was better able to adjust to the organizational structure of the company and the culture of the work place.”