Centre to provide hope for deaf and hearing impaired children

Hearing aid: Cochlear implants, like the one pictured, are used to help people hear. Picture: Peter Rae
Hearing aid: Cochlear implants, like the one pictured, are used to help people hear. Picture: Peter Rae

Hope for Campbelltown children with hearing impairments could be just around the corner, thanks to a generous donation from an Australian company.

Sargents Pies recently gave $950,000 to charity the Shepherd Centre – an organisation that helps children who are deaf or hearing impaired.

The money will go towards establishing the charity’s sixth centre, here in Campbelltown.

The closest centre is in Casula and helps about 20 families in the Macarthur area.

However funding restrictions mean two out of every three children are unable to receive help.

Shepherd Centre chief executive Jim Hungerford said the new centre – which will hopefully be up and running within the next year – will be able to assist another 70-80 children and their families.

Mr Hungerford said the charity had identified Campbelltown as an area of need a while ago.

However, with the Shepherd Centre relying on donations to fund operations, it wasn’t feasible to establish the Campbelltown facility.

“There is this need in Campbelltown which means a lot of kids are currently missing out,” he said.

“The $950,000 will cover about 50 per cent of the cost to create the Campbelltown centre.

“It will buy the location but it’s not enough to fit it out and build it.”

“We’ve been wanting to open up in Campbelltown but finding that amount of money is difficult.

“This makes the impossible, possible.”

Success: Five-year-old Elijah Lockwood, from Hammondville, is one of the many children the Casuala Shepherd Centre has helped. Picture: Simon Bennett

Success: Five-year-old Elijah Lockwood, from Hammondville, is one of the many children the Casuala Shepherd Centre has helped. Picture: Simon Bennett

Mr Hungerford said deafness or hearing impairments could lead to further difficulties including problems with speech which could also lead to social issues.

Helping children sooner rather than later – with the assistance of counsellors, therapists and psychologists – was the key.

“A child with normal hearing starts to hear things from about halfway through the pregnancy,” he said.

“They know their mum’s voice and can understand accents.

“Once they are born, 24 hours a day they are processing what they hear.

“But for a deaf child that doesn’t happen.

“The whole time they are in the womb there is no stimulation to the brain and when born there is still no stimulation.

“It’s use it or lose it (when it comes to the ability to hear).

“If the brain is not stimulated the ability to hear withers and dies and becomes a permanent disability.”

Another important aspect of the Shepherd Centre is how they work with the families of the children.

Mr Hungerford said the support of the family was critical.

“The degree of deafness is not the biggest determinent for a child reaching the potential – it’s the engagement of the family,” he said.

“If a family is struggling they can find it difficult to support the child the way they need to be supported.”

Details: 1800 020 030 or the shepherdcentre.org.au