The parents arrived at Thuan An on their motorbikes, some with children in tow, and filed inside the large meeting room, camping themselves behind the small wooden desks. They gathered here tonight to ask questions and get insight from our entire team of professionals who lined up in an informal panel at the front of the room. Flying insects and geckos crashed our party, attracted to the buzzing ceiling lights, and the fans overhead beat the thick humid air.

Our team had prepared some questions to warm up the audience and get the questions flowing, but we needn’t have bothered. This was one of the few, if only, opportunities that these parents have had to get informed, straight answers from experts representing a range of speech and hearing disciplines, and they took full advantage of it. The questions rained down on the panel from the get-go, ranging from general inquiries about cochlear implants to specific concerns about their own children.

The learning these parents have acquired after spending three weeks in our program came through in the thoughtful and astute questions they asked. When we first arrived here, all the parents wanted to know was when their child would speak in full sentences. Since then, they have learned that cultivation of language is a process, and about the importance of consistent, quality access to sound in that effort. They have new awareness and appreciation for complete hearing evaluations, properly fitted technology, and the role they can play in their child’s language development. The questions posed tonight were remarkable proof that our team has been successful in educating these families. They have knowledge and are now trying to act on it.

At the end of the event, we passed the microphone down the panel line so that each professional could offer one last piece of advice or take-home message. I shared my belief that every one of these children has a talent – sports, arts, science, whatever it may be – and if the parents could identify and help cultivate that talent, it will help their children develop self-confidence and give them an identity that transcends their hearing loss.

Hillary encouraged the parents to work with each other and the teachers to leverage the information and knowledge they have acquired during our program to collectively help their children develop language and enhance the standard of deaf education. When the microphone reached Thuy, she appealed to the parents that — with their help and support — they could work together to implement audiological services that would help address some of the gaps in care that these families are now recognizing they need for their children. The audience buzzed in approval. The positive energy and inspiration that lived in that room tonight reminded me of the quote, “Education is not a drop in a bucket, but the start of a fire.”