Written by Barb Sieminski
Last December, 17-year-old Gabrielle Layman of Fort Wayne got a tremendous Christmas gift from HearCare Connection – an all-expenses-paid mission trip to Guatemala!
The Concordia Lutheran High School junior was speechless when she was notified that she had won the company’s essay contest underwritten by Widex, the world’s sixth-largest hearing aid manufacturer.
“It felt amazing!” said Gabby, who took her first trip out of the country when she spent a week in Guatemala February 27-March 5, 2016.
Regina, Gabby’s mother, had not thought the odds were in favor of her daughter’s winning the contest.
“With the entire city of Fort Wayne’s high schoolers having the opportunity to submit an essay, it didn’t seem very likely,” said Regina. “Once we had been selected as one of the top three, I had a good feeling about it, and the moment she told me she had won, all I felt was pride! I think the judges saw that she was speaking from her heart and I couldn’t be more proud that she was chosen.”
(Gabby’s essay can be viewed below)
According to Anna Bogdon, HCC’s executive director, on the 2016 Hearing the Call: Guatemala Hearing Mission trip, her company partnered with 21 Alive, Entheos Audiology Cooperative and Woodland Public Charities to bring hearing healthcare to a developing region in Guatemala. On this trip they brought hearing aids and audiology care to the residents of Patanatic and the surrounding communities.
This year, they included a spot on their team for one area high schooler for an all-expenses-paid mission trip upon winning their essay contest. Each participant, 16 and over, was required to write a 300-word essay on what it meant to serve people in poverty.
“Widex has been a tremendous supporter of HearCare Connection since our inception,” said Bogdon. “We are proud to be partnering with them locally in our clinic as well as joining forces with them for the Guatemala trip. Widex's sponsorship not only will help to bring the Gift of Hearing around the globe but they are directly influencing the life of a local student as they participate on this trip.
“The impact of this journey has the potential to direct the career of a young student. Our heartfelt "Thank you!" goes to this tremendous partner!”
Though Gabby, who cites her favorite classes as English and band (she plays flute and piccolo), was naturally excited about her trip, her mother had some initial apprehensions.
“I absolutely was worried about sending Gabrielle to a foreign country,” said Regina.
“Anna had warned us about some of the precautions being taken to be safe while out of the country, but it made me nervous to think about why they had to be taken. I have a friend at church who adopted a child from Guatemala. She told me stories of her experiences in the country and it worried me to send my blonde-headed child to a country where she would stick out so much. However, I knew that if this was what God was calling Gabrielle to do, he would keep her safe. I couldn't let my fear get in God's way of teaching my daughter what He wanted her to learn.”
Bringing home an abundance of memories Gabby recalls one that was especially hilarious.
“Anna, Sandy – a lady from Fort Wayne – and I went on a taxi ride around the block, and Sandy got out at every place we stopped to take pictures,” said Gabby. “She especially wanted to get a picture of some ladies making tortillas in a little shop but they kept saying ‘NO,’ which made Sandy mad, so she yelled ‘¡Buenas noches!’ to them in a mean way, which means ‘Good night’ in Spanish. It was funny because she said a nice thing in an unpleasant way.
“Also, when we went across the lake for our last clinic day, we had to ride in pickup trucks to get to the church. Well, the trucks had bars that went on the tops of them. We had to stand up and hold onto the bars while the truck went up very steep hills – we were all packed in like sardines but it was a lot of fun!”
“Another memorable story involves a boy named Christian. He was 6 years old and had never heard sound before, and because of that, he couldn’t talk. When the HCC team fitted him with hearing aids, I got to witness him hear for the first time AND say his first words. It was phenomenal and after he was fitted with his hearing aids he went around the room and thanked everyone individually in sign language!”
Gabby who wants to be a pediatric physical therapist, is looking at Concordia University of Wisconsin, Vincennes University, or Ohio State University to continue her education after graduation.
“My trip was just outstanding and so much fun,” enthused Gabby, who knew a little Spanish prior to her journey.
“Guatemala is a beautiful country, and it was eye-opening and humbling to be there. Trips like these are important because poor people need help and God’s love and Word need to be spread to the rest of the world. I really grew in my faith, too.
“Also, my trip made me realize how lucky I am to have what I have. It made me realize how much I take simple things, like hearing, for granted. It made me realize that I need to change how I act and to be more appreciative.”
Gabby’s winning essay
To serve people in poverty is to help them have a better life. To help them see that the world isn't all bad and that there are people willing and ready to help them. It's to give them hope for a better future. Hope is the only thing that people in poverty have to keep them going every day. Just like a single mom hopes for a miracle. That's what people in poverty need. A miracle. I want to be that miracle. I want to help them and give them hope. To get the opportunity to watch people hear for the first time would be life changing. This is a once in a lifetime chance that I would get to take. Knowing that I would be a miracle for someone and change their life would be awesome. People in poverty deserve everything that we have here in America. They need as much help from us as they can get. I believe that it's almost mandatory for us to help them out. They're equal people, they're not below or above us in any way. They deserve to be healthy, clean, and to hear and speak every day just like we do. We need to help them get back on their feet and give them hope and the chance for a new, better life. I want to play a part in that. I want to make a difference. I want to change the world.