Hearing Link is one of 82 groups across Northern Ireland celebrating today as they share £693,133 of funding from Awards for All.
Hearing Link, which supports people across Northern Ireland with acquired hearing loss and their families, has received a £9,985 grant. They are using the £9,985 to deliver a programme of courses across Northern Ireland on self-management and rehabilitation. They are also promoting peer support and providing community based activities.
Craig Fisher (33) from Finaghy attended Hearing Link’s first ever rehabilitation programme in Northern Ireland with his sister Joanne in 2013 after struggling with hearing loss for many years and it changed his life completely.
“I’ve had hearing loss from a very young age but I didn’t really notice it until pre-school when I was interacting with people outside of my immediate family. I thought I was a bit too stupid to keep up or I hadn’t learned as many words as the other kids,” he said.
“I was given a hearing aid and managed to achieve good results academically, but it felt as if I had to work much harder than everyone else to succeed. I went to university but the format of lectures were worse for me. I felt inadequate and it was mentally and emotionally exhausting. All I wanted to do at the end of the day was shut myself away.”
“And one day I just quit. I was sitting on a group project and I couldn’t understand what was going on. My life had been like that for as long as I could remember. I took the next bus home and never went back. I stayed home for 10 years, not bothering or trying because trying hadn’t worked for me.”
In 2012 Craig’s dad died suddenly and in the traumatic weeks that followed, Craig finally admitted to his family how isolated he was because of his hearing loss. His sisters put him in touch with the local sensory support team who told him about Hearing Link and its intensive Rehabilitation Programme. It included a week long residential in Cookstown with other people suffering hearing loss.
“I was extremely nervous but Hearing Link had created a safe place where everything was designed to put us at ease and to build us up. I found myself with a new sense of hope, being surrounded by people who seemed to care and understand.”
Since then, Craig’s life has changed profoundly. He has attended Hearing Link lip-reading and signing classes and has attended friendship and support groups. He has gained a new sense of confidence.
“I am no longer ashamed of my hearing loss or hearing aids and I am putting myself out there in a way that I never have before. I am purposefully trying to enjoy my life. I now have a connection with my family. I have lots of nieces and nephews and I have built up great relationships with them in the past couple of years since Hearing Link helped me. I do still feel like I have a long way to go but I now have a sense of positivity and hope that is a new thing in my life.”
Craig now volunteers with Hearing Link and provides regular support for others struggling as a result of hearing loss. He has also contributed his knowledge and skills for the development of the new Hearing Link website.
Michelle McMaster, Hearing Link Northern Ireland Manager, said: “This grant will help us to deliver more of our specialist programmes to people like Craig across Northern Ireland. It will also help us recruit and train more volunteers to provide peer support for over 400 people with hearing loss, their families and friends, which will improve their quality of life enormously.”
For more information please visit: http://www.hearinglink.org/
Awards for All application forms and guidance notes are available to download at www.biglotteryfund.org.uk. For more details call us on 028 9055 1455, or e-mail us at email@example.com