Posts Tagged ‘hands & voices leadership conference’

Life is Like Climbing a Mountain

June 12, 2019

A group of us arrived at the bottom of Hermit Park, which is on the outskirts of Estes Park. The plan was to walk the two miles up to the top of Krugers Rock. This was an UPtime activity for the Hands & Voices Leadership conference.

It started out easy, with a walk through a meadow. By the time we reached the first summit a mile and half later, some were satisfied and started their way back down. I was amazed at the views and spent some time taking pictures and soaking it all in.

Molly and I were among the last to head up to Krugers Rock. We weren’t sure if we should even attempt the climb as the time was running out and we would risk being stuck on the trail in the dark. We were slightly out of breath and definitely out of shape for the climb, but we had some energy left.

And we had a mission: we wanted to go to the top and see that spectacular view!

We decided to go for it.

The trail became rockier, but as we passed people coming down, they urged us to continue as the view was “beyond amazing.”

But for Molly and I, the climb was not easy. We were inexperienced Midwesterners accustomed to flat ground. We had to stop to catch our breath. The air was becoming thinner the higher we went up. And the sun was starting its descent. Would we make it before dark? During one break in the climb, we tried to decide if we should turn around and head back.

“I think we will regret it if we give up now,” one of us said.

So we kept going.

Then we got lucky. We connected with an experienced climber who was on the way down. Lynne Canales offered to guide us. She knew the path well.

A guide made all the difference. Her knowledge and guidance made it easier for us to navigate the last of the climb.  The closer we came to the summit, the more excited we became. The energy of being on the right path and so close to success simply fueled us up the last of the switchback paths.

We helped each other through the last, narrow path.

We reached the top together and the view was spectacular. Three hundred and sixty degrees of mountains and Aspen groves.

And when we made it to the bottom, the sun was gone and we walked through the meadow in the dark.

But we were elated. The hard climb was worth it.

At moments here and there on our way up to the top, Molly and I talked about how climbing the mountain was like our journey–of raising deaf and hard of hearing kids and working with families through Hands & Voices–and all the ups and downs we encountered over the years.

Here are some of the lessons:

The beginning is easy. You have a goal in sight and a mission to accomplish it. You’re fueled by enthusiasm and excitement. Everyone starts out in the same place.

When the climb gets tough, you’re tempted to give up. This is the messy middle. The hard stuff.

At times, you will think you can’t do it.

The fear of the unknown or imagined fears will slow you down or keep you from your goal.

The path will twist and turn. At times, you think it’s never-ending.

An experienced guide can make a huge difference. Wisdom and encouragement from those who’ve “done it and been there” can change your own experience.

Success means something different for everyone. The first summit can be enough. Or halfway. Or the top. Only you can determine what success means to you.

And the best lesson of all?

The journey is meant to be enjoyed.


Hands & Voices Leadership Conference 2017: Cultural Perspectives

October 10, 2017

HV Panel

Panel Session: Engaging Families and Leaders in a Diverse World

This year the Hands & Voices Leadership Conference brought cultural diversity to the table. A group of seven women, moms and clinicians whose cultural heritage represents many corners of the world, participated in a discussion panel.

Cultural diversity is a topic we need to discuss so we can better serve families from different cultural backgrounds. Culture is the integrated pattern of learned beliefs and behaviors (Nunez, 2006; Betancourt, 2003). It explains how we view and value the world. It is influenced by socioeconomic status, religion, sexual orientation, occupation, etc. (2006, 2003). Culture is the way we think, act, and interact with others. People from the same race do not necessarily share the same culture. As service providers, we should practice, grow and master our cultural competence skills. Cultural competence allows us to determine the social and cultural influences in a person’s health beliefs and behaviors. It is the ability to interact with people who are different than ourselves (Nunez, 2006, Dy, 2011).

In the following paragraphs, parent-guides/panel participants discuss key aspects to keep in mind when serving our Hands & Voices families:

Different cultures have different reactions to a diagnosis of hearing loss. Those reactions influence how and when we seek support. As parent-guides we can help families access support services sooner rather than later if we can connect with them and understand where they are in their own journey.

Our Connection: As parent-guides serving families from different cultures, we need to keep in mind that there is a common connection between us and the DHH families that we serve, and that the connection is the common diagnosis. This is an unbreakable bond that will open the door for us to serve and support those families. Language and translations: Language barriers also create challenges. Terms in English may not reflect the same meaning in different languages. Families need to understand exact terminology, be able to share the correct information, and exchange viewpoints about their child’s care to ensure a clear understanding of the decisions they make on behalf of their children. Are we connecting families with similar backgrounds so that they can feel a sense of familiarity especially at a time when everything is new and unknown?

Family preferences: We need to understand where each family is in their own journey. Find out about the families’ view of hearing loss, and support them accordingly. For instance, after the diagnosis some families are comfortable jumping in and starting an action plan. However, other families may need time to absorb, digest, and understand what their child’s diagnosis means to them and how they choose to approach the decisions they need to make regarding their child’s language acquisition, education, and even medical or professional treatment. It is important to provide a wide variety of opportunities for engagement. Small intimate gatherings are just as effective as big social events. Educational opportunities both virtual and real-time can bring important information. Resources should be accessible at a time that is convenient for families. We need to keep our hand on the pulse of the family when it comes to introducing new supports, like a deaf mentor, support group, family activities, etc.

Extended Families: Extended large families also play a role in many cultures and may impact how we support certain families. As members of Hands & Voices, we already know that it takes a village to raise a Deaf or Hard of Hearing Child. It is important to think about grandparents’ or other family members’ views on deafness or Hard of Hearing, and how we can include and involve them in our efforts to serve and educate their families.

Asking for help: Things may get difficult, and the tools that we have may not be sufficient for supporting some diverse families. At Hands & Voices, we have members from different cultural backgrounds. Reaching out to them may help parent-guides discover new resources or learn different options on how to better support a specific family. We should all keep in mind that asking for help and resources does not make us lesser advocates or guides, because all parent-guides face many challenges serving families from a different culture than theirs

We should pay close attention to each family’s dynamics and preferences, be aware of cultural influences, and offer our support accordingly. We are not alone. We all are constantly navigating others’ beliefs and behaviors. Finally, we should ask for help when in doubt, or if we think we are running short of resources. We are here to help each other help more families succeed.


Thank you to Rana Ottallah & Rosabel Agbayani parent-guides for their input in writing this summary. Thank you to all the panel participants for the content of this summary: Apryl Chauhan (CA), Yiesell Rayon (HQ,CA), Janet DesGeorges(HQ), Djenne-amal Morris (HQ), Rana Ottallah (LA), Rosabel Agbayani (CA), and Alejandra Ullauri (IL).


Betancourt, J.R. (2003). Cross-Cultural Medical Education: Conceptual Approaches and Frameworks for Evaluation. Academic Medicine, 78(6), 560-569.

Dy, C.J., Nelson, C.L. (2011). Diversity, Cultural Competence, and Patient Trust. Clinical Orthop Related Research 469, 1878-1882.