Leaving a Legacy in Guatemala
When Dr. Mike Mallahan, an audiologist from Everett, WA, read a newspaper article in the local Herald he was captivated. Dr. Ron Krueger, an ENT surgeon, had recently returned from a surgical trip to Guatemala through Healing the Children Oregon Western Washington (HTCORWWA). Krueger described the trip as transformative. A short time later, Mike was coaching a soccer team which Ron’s son was on and a conversation about that article would change Mike’s life and the lives of thousands of children in Guatemala forever.
Dr. Ron said that while the ENT surgical trips were amazing, he could only help 10% of the children who came for treatment. The majority of children had hearing loss, so if Mike could form an audiology team – Guatemala needed him! It was an easy ask. Just 7 years earlier, Mike’s brother Pat had married a woman from Guatemala, so Mike was already in love with the county and had connections there.
In 2003, Mike took his first trip to Guatemala City. He met up with a Rotary Club that provided translators for the team and they invited Mike to speak. A young Finnish woman heard the presentation and told her father who then invited Mike to come to Flores in northern Guatemala. The father said there was a high level of deafness in children in this rural region. The Rotary Club paid for Mike’s trip and there he met two people Ruby and Oscar who later became two of the five Guatemalans Mike would help to train as Audio Techs. This would become the founding of the Audiology program of HTCORWWA.
Over the past 13 years, Dr. Mike has made trips in February and November and now August to Guatemala. An early partnership with the Guatemalan based Realizando Sueños “Realize Your Dreams” helped to provide sustainability in this work. Mallahan provided training (over the course of 8 years) for five Guatemalans as Audio Techs who now run their own businesses selling new and refurbished hearing aids. There have been 6 sites established complete with diagnostic equipment and testing and now 3 new sites have been identified for the November 2017 team.
Rotary continues to be a big partner and financial supporter in Guatemala and the US most recently providing 20 on-line Audio Tech classes in Spanish and books which have accelerated the training program for 3 new trainees. Rotary also funds thousands of dollars in hearing aids and testing equipment annually.
To say Mike Mallahan is changing lives is an understatement. He has in fact changed the lives of more than 3,000 children who can now hear and learn and thrive. His teams provide 1,200 children every year with assessment, treatment, and follow up. He leads audiology and ENT teams 2 - 3 times a year, with groups of up to 30 Americans and 12 Guatemalans. In 2015, he recruited audiology students from the University of Washington who go every August and do the assessments for the November team. And he is beginning to think to the future… maybe he can do this again in another country!