“They call us hearing angels,” said Cross, who travelled to El Salvador in June with a 16-member Canadian team for a three-day trip. It was a busy time, with 2,100 people, ranging in age from eight months to 100 years, being fitted with hearing aids and devices.
Cross said while the days are long, the pay-off is priceless, remembering one little girl who had no ear lobe they were able to help.
“She looked at her mom and her eyes lit up. It’s really amazing to see their world open up. To see the joy the gift of hearing brings,” she said, noting the impact is far more reaching than just the one child or person.
“It impacts the entire family and the community and gives them opportunities they wouldn’t have otherwise.”
Cross has been involved with the Starkey Hearing Foundation for 13 years now, participating in 12 missions during that time. She has been to El Salvador three times.
“El Salvador is near and dear to our hearts,” she said.
Helping more than just hearing
It was where the team first went 13 years ago. On that mission, they took a local school under its wing in addition to helping people hear.
Returning to the same community several years later, upon asking about the school, the team found out it was in danger of closing because of a lack of funding. Cross said she immediately took up collection from team members, raising enough to keep the school open.
After returning to Canada, she raised enough money to purchase a shipping container to go to El Salvador and made arrangements with Canadian Green Solutions Inc to fill it with surplus computers, office equipment and furniture stored in their warehouse.
“They said to take whatever we wanted,” Cross. “It was so much stuff it helped five other schools.”
Cross was able to see the result of that labour of love when she returned this year.
“The school we initially helped had been able to build a second level where they created a computer lab,” she said, noting the team has been able to help between 50 to 75 kids have a safe school to attend.
“I feel very fortunate to do what I do and what we do here. It’s my time to give back.”
Sharing the gift of hearing
Besides mission work, which both Cross and her son Cole participate in, Provincial Hearing has started a program Everyone Hears, where they fit people in need of a hearing aid but can’t afford one, with donated hearing aids. Cross said they have helped 50 people through the program so far.
Provincial Hearing also contributes to the Starkey Foundation by donating a portion of proceeds from every hear aid sold.
“For every 10 hearing aids sold we can help one,” said Cross. “Not everybody can do what I do but just by purchasing a hearing aid they are being hearing angels too.”
Cross is already making plans for next year’s mission, meeting with the Canadian team at the Starkey Hearing Foundation Gala fundraiser in Minneapolis on the July 15 weekend. In addition to its commitment to donate and fit 100,000 hearing aids a year, the Starkey Foundation is also building schools in third world countries to teach and train people to give hearing tests, fit hearing aids and provide ongoing support to recipients.
Cross, who is a board-certified hearing instrument specialist, has been in the business for 25 years. Provincial Hearing, which is family owned and ran, has five offices is Nova Scotia, including Kentville, Bridgewater, Halifax, Dartmouth and Truro.