We recently held a Summer BBQ party for Tree House members and friends at SJ’s request since this was her aspiration. We thought it would be fun to eat lovely barbecued food and homemade cakes with great company, whilst raising funds for the charity Sound Seekers. This is a small UK-based charity, which helps deaf and hard of hearing children in Africa by providing hearing aids, audiology services and deaf education, all things we take for granted here in the UK.
We had all been looking forward to this for a long time and the Tree House events team had been preparing for it for several weeks. Promotional flyers had been made, tickets sold, food bought and prepared and raffle prizes donated by local shops and cafés.
We would like to give special thanks to our local butcher ‘Quality and Excellence’ in Theydon Bois for providing the meat, to the ‘Green Owl Café’ in Buckhurst Hill, ‘Chigwell Health Foods’ and my mum for donating raffle prizes, as well as to the many Tree House members who prepared food, baked homemade cakes and gave up their valuable time to help out on the day.
In order to make this event accessible to all the deaf and hard of hearing people there, we are also very grateful to Carol, the professional lipspeaker, who voluntarily gave up her own Saturday to be with us and provide lipspeaking and BSL interpreter support to assist the communication and interpret the talks for us. On behalf of the Tree House, we would like to thank Lesley Pizzey Weatherson-Emm from Lipspeaker UK for organising this.
Thankfully, that afternoon the sun came out and the rain held off. We all sat in the garden and enjoyed ourselves, chatting away and meeting new friends. It was great that there didn’t seem to be any communication barriers despite the fact that as a group we ranged from hearing people to hard of hearing and deaf people with various communication methods.
I (Richard) was kept busy barbecuing the food, ably assisted by Mark Bushell and others. It was a great team effort with several Tree House members all helping out serving the food and drinks.
After we had eaten we all gathered round to hear Emily Bell from Sound Seekers talk about the work they do in Africa to help and support deaf children there. Carol provided excellent lipspeaking and BSL interpreting to Emily’s talk to make it accessible to everyone. It was very interactive and interesting, as Emily kept involving us by asking us lots of questions. She explained that through lack of educational and therefore employment opportunities, combined with a lack of audiological support, deaf and hard of hearing people in poor countries were likely to be some of the poorest and most disadvantaged in society.
She gave us examples of the work that Sound Seekers do to try and improve the lives of deaf and hard of hearing people in the African countries where they work. They partner with hospitals to develop audiology services. They do this by training existing nurses to provide basic audiology services, as well as organising volunteer audiologists (often from the UK) to visit them to provide them with refresher training and teach them new skills.
They also partner with schools for the deaf to improve their capacity through specialised teacher training and sign language training, as well as upgrading their facilities. She also talked about a project they are running in Sierra Leone to provide targeted screening of under-18s, who have increased risk of hearing loss. This provides them with the appropriate audiological and educational support that they need.
I was really surprised to learn that people in the countries where Sound Seekers work are much more likely to be deaf than in the UK because of hearing damage caused by preventable diseases, ear infections and medicines causing hearing loss, which often go undetected for years, often until it is too late to treat them. She said that the World Health Organisation estimates that up to 50% of hearing loss cases could be prevented, and many of them very early on, if young children were screened at an early age. This is why Sound Seekers are working with teachers and community health workers, (including a new project in Zambia) to deliver key messages about ear and health care in their local community.
She also described a project they have in Gambia & Sierra Leone where they are working with mainstream schools to train teachers on deaf awareness and what they should do if they suspect a child in their class of having hearing loss. Often children with a moderate hearing loss are left behind in the enormous mainstream classes, with many dropping out altogether. This project is designed to keep those children in school.
Emily’s talk left a great impression on all of us, as we realised how lucky we are in the UK to have access to free hearing aids, cochlear implants, audiology, education and hearing screening through the NHS and our local authorities. This makes a massive difference to people’s educational achievements, career ambitions and general quality of life.
After the talk I thanked everyone for coming, donating or volunteering on the day, which was followed by our raffle and cake sale to raise more money for Sound Seekers. Lizzie, Sarah and Jeanie did a fantastic job selling their cakes and serving tea and coffee. They had decorated their cake table beautifully too, making such an effort. Mary Berry would be very proud of them!
In the evening, several of us stayed there until late, having great fun playing the African drums provided by Mark from Incloodu. We all had such a good time banging on those drums and enjoying ourselves by the warmth of a big open fire blazing away. It was wonderful to take part and watch others having a go. Michael Theobald’s unique style of drumming was legendary and he made us all laugh, as you can see in the You Tube video here (which was made by Sara Jae).
This is the first time that the Tree House has held a fundraising event like this, and we’re all really pleased that it has been such a success. We also managed to raise about £700 for Sound Seekers, which is fantastic! Thank you to everyone for getting involved in such a passionate way and to Emily from Sound Seekers for coming along and giving such a great talk about such a wonderful charity.
The next day I was really moved by the words of Sara Jae from the Tree House about it, which I now want to share with you all:
“It was such an honour to be present and realise just how much of an effect Sound Seekers is creating in Africa, for the better. But on this occasion, it was with our help via the Tree House and its members seizing the day to donate and sacrifice some valuable personal time for the cause. Yet for those who could not come, they were there in spirit”.
We’re looking forward to many more ‘Tree House’ events in the future, whether they are for fundraising, fun or both. To quote Sara and the Tree House motto ‘Carpe Diem!’
by Richard and Joanna Turner
To find out more information about Sound Seekers and to make a donation, please click here:
The Tree House would like to thank Mrs J.E.Turner, Mrs C.Holland, Mr Ian Hore, Joanna Gretton, Eloise Garland, Lauren Harris and Steve Bell for their kind donations and raffle prizes. Also, we would like to thank the following very kind local businesses for their generous raffle prize donations and support for this event, as well as Chigwell Health Foods. Last, but certainly not least, we thank Mark Bushell from Incloodu for bringing his African drums:
Update: A note from the founder and owner of ‘The Tree House’ – some of the people featured on this entry are no longer associated with The Tree House for several reasons. Thank you for your time and patience.