Chyrisse Heine knows Cambodia’s rural provinces well. She travels there regularly—and has for years—in her work for Cambodia Vision, which provides health care to Cambodian residents. In oppressive humidity and with limited resources, Heine works with a group of volunteers to provide hearing care and treatment for the organization. Last year, her team helped more than 700 people—46 of whom experienced the ability to hear for the first time.
An associate professor at La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia, Heine is an audiologist and speech-language pathologist. In addition to teaching and leading her annual volunteer trips, she runs her own private practice, is a director at Speech Pathology Australia, and founded the Speech and Hearing Project, a not-for-profit to involve speech-language pathology students and graduate students in volunteer work.
But her work in Cambodia really drives her.
“A large percentage of the population have hearing loss, speaking problems and communication difficulties,” Heine says. “Many children are born with hearing loss, or have had repeated infections and accumulate some damage along the way. Farmers often end up with hearing loss from working with noisy machinery. There are also logistical issues to overcome. Most people have to travel several hours to get access to basic health care.”
Audiologist Courtney Caron spent four years in Africa creating a full-service hearing care clinic from the ground up.
After working with various NGOs in Cambodia for a few years, Heine embarked on her first mission with Cambodia Vision in 2016.
“We were stationed in Pursat province, in the western part of the country, with 60 other volunteers for two weeks,” Heine says. “We worked out of the local hospital, but it was a self-sufficient mission. We took all our own equipment with us and set up the clinic from scratch. With the help of translators and Cambodian medical students, our team conducted hearing testing and fitted listening systems, as well as doing some speech therapy work.”
The reward? Helping someone to hear for the first time. “It is a celebration,” says Heine. “The listening system is very basic, but it gives patients access to amplified sound. We come away knowing we have touched the community. It is exciting to be able to identify a need and know that you are able help.”
Giselle Roberts, PhD, is the communications coordinator and SHE review editor for La Trobe Institute for Molecular Science at La Trobe University. G.firstname.lastname@example.org