Posts Tagged ‘support’

David Cluff: Inspiring Deaf and Hard of Hearing Teens

October 5, 2016


My name is David Cluff and I am deaf, and this is my story.

In March of 1993 I was born with a virus called Cytomegalovirus, which is known as CMV. This virus has many side effects and doctors thought I might not survive. I was born pre-mature and despite what doctors initially thought, I was born healthy. I was welcomed by loving parents and would eventually be the oldest of four children.

My childhood was not like most kids growing up. At age three I was diagnosed with hearing loss and fitted with my first set of hearing aids. At age six, I woke up one morning and any hearing I had the night before was completely gone. Just like that, something that I cherished so much was gone. My world had changed in a matter of moments. I felt broken, unsure, and I missed the way things used to be.

Shortly after losing all my hearing, I was given the option to receive a Cochlear Implant. After lots of prayers and help from family, friends and people I hardly knew, I got my first Cochlear Implant in October of 1999. Shortly after recovery, I got the Cochlear Implant turned on–and very quickly, my ability to hear my parents, my own footsteps and the water running was restored.


Did that magically make everything perfect again?


Rather, it was the beginning of a journey of faith as I re-learned to hear the world around me. It was like a matching game of “what sound goes with what.” As the years went by and after a major move to the great city of St. Louis, Missouri, I was given another opportunity to receive a second Cochlear Implant for my left ear. It was my dream to hear with two ears again. I was once again faced with the challenge of re-learning to hear. Hearing with two ears is not the same as hearing with one.

Back in 2007, I was working closely with my surgeon, Dr. Hullar, on a five-year research study. He became a good friend and a great mentor to me. During one of the meetings in his lab he overheard my parents and I brainstorming on what project I should do for my Eagle Scout rank in Boy Scouts (BSA). Dr. Hullar knew my background in computers and said, “Why not build a website for deaf teens like yourself?” It was like a huge light bulb went off and I found something to be passionate about. Before I could actually start the project I had to get it approved by the BSA board. I was nervous as I really wanted to do this project no matter what and being able to do it as my Eagle Scout Project would make it more meaningful. The board members approved the project.

The project began and I was no longer alone on the website as teens from around the world joined in to help me. Out of all the teens, I created a group of key team members to help manage the project. Team members included JoEllen from Tennessee, Lesley from Texas, Josh from Missouri and Lissa from the United Kingdom. All of them are deaf and use cochlear implants and/or other hearing devices. I could never have done it without their support.  We did not only build this website together but formed friendships. We also had community professionals volunteer their expertise in graphic design, web design and more! It was amazing!  In 2012, I decided to put everything on hold and serve a two-year church mission where I was able to meet and help so many people. Upon my return home in 2014, the servers for had failed and it was lost. As devastating as it was, it was a great learning experience for me.
After months of working on a website design, logo work, and building content, became LIVE once again in May 2016. It was a thrilling moment as I sat with my wife and we launched the website to the public once again. This project is one of my biggest passions. At one point I thought, “I am no longer a teenager, so maybe I need to put it on the shelf.” But, as we can see, it did not stay on the shelf for too long. It was always on my mind and I knew I needed to bring it back.
Because of Dr. Hullar’s mentorship, I developed a confidence that I can do anything. has become a huge passion of mine as I want to help others, especially teens, gain support to reach their dreams.


Today, I am happily married to my best friend and a father to an energetic 8-month-old boy. Even as an adult, I am still learning to hear the world around me and cherish every moment I can. I have come to realize that life isn’t supposed to be perfect; rather, it is like a puzzle. When you get a puzzle in a box or bag you now have the choice to either put the puzzle together or let it sit on the shelf. My challenges came like a bag of puzzle pieces. So many pieces that it often felt like it would take years to put each one together to match the master photo. Yet, I had a choice. Am I going to let it sit on the shelf and let my challenges hold me back or am I going to do my best to put the puzzle together? Once completed you see the whole picture; but notice how there are lines going all over the place from each puzzle piece. It is not seamless at all, but it is also not broken. That is like life. We are given pieces of a puzzle and with time, we come to see the masterpiece.

My master puzzle is still in the works and I am seeing parts of it coming together–and that is when I know that everything is all right and that everything will work out.

Read more about David’s story, visit:



Olivier Jeannel: Three Criteria of Success in Growing Up Deaf

October 7, 2014

Dear readers,

I’m honored to be able to put in a guest post, at Karen’s request. Karen and I exchanged by Skype recently and we discovered we shared some common traits. Besides being deaf. We both live life with a passion. And enjoy extreme water sports. Karen as a barefoot water skier. Myself as a kite surfer.

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I was born and raised in Los Angeles, California. At age two, I was diagnosed with severe hearing loss. The result of a fever which had damaged my nerves. My parents promptly had me fitted with hearing aids. I could have my choice of raising up Deaf culture or deaf mainstream later in life, when I could make a choice. But at two years of age my parents wanted that I should at least be able to make that choice: meaning that I should at least learn to speak and to grasp what I could hear with my hearing aids.

Today I’m 34 and I speak three languages. I now live in Paris, France. I have worked in Madrid, Spain. I enjoy going back to California regularly.

How did that happen ? I like to joke that it’s because I can’t hear the word, “no.”

But I can now identify three strong criteria for my success in growing up as a deaf child:
Family, reading, and sports.


My family gave me a loving and supportive environment. They weren’t overly protective, far from it. I had to face the real world. Growing up, my parents never gave me any excuse to skip classes or to forget my homework. I hadn’t heard the teacher? Very well. They’d ask the teacher or my classmates’ parents for my assignments. There were no games at home till homework was done.

At school, I realized I wasn’t like the other kids. I was probably missing out on things. I was being taunted sometimes. But curiously enough, I had never blamed it on myself. I just thought they were being nasty, and I didn’t pay them much mind. Unlike my siblings and my best friend who were totally cool. My three siblings gave me a world in which I could learn and play games and have fun, without feeling like I was any different.

Today, I marvel at that state of mind, and whenever I need to I sometimes turn to my younger self for inspiration.


My greatest breakthrough came from reading books. Indeed, what better channel of learning for a deaf child ? I picked up reading rather late. I had no clue what the ABC lessons were all about during school. So my parents made an extra effort for me to read, tracing the words on a page with their finger while speaking the words. I also had a tutor to whom I would go to once a week to learn to read. Her name was Miss Simms. And last but not least I had a speech therapist who educated me throughout my public school years, from elementary school to high school.

Miss Liss was patient and I enjoyed her weekly visits immensely. With such a supportive environment, I fell in love with reading. Maths was an abstract nightmare for me, but I loved reading. TV never really attracted me as a child. It was a mess of incomprehensible voices with ridiculous characters that always came with canned laughter or annoying tunes. But reading, ah, that was something real.

During recess period, I would sometimes sneak away to the school’s library and catch up on books. I quickly devoured most of the boring children’s books, and went looking for more challenging material. I was especially fond of pirate adventures, English explorers, and Greek mythology. Those heroes that defied the odds. I really identified with these characters.

Olivier Kite-surf


By sports, I mean all kinds of sports. Team sports, and outdoor sports. I wasn’t particularly athletic. I was just a kid with energy to spend. I invented new challenges for myself all the time. Learning to ride a unicycle. Doing a flip on the diving board. On the weekends my parents would pile the whole family in the car and drive to the mountains and the beaches around Los Angeles. We would hike and swim and build treehouses.

As a deaf child, having a universe of activities to do distracted me from my own condition. I was constantly in action. I had no time to mull over myself. There was always a fish to catch, or the next wave to surf on.

All three of these influences – family, books, and sports – had one thing in common: Passion! It was all about living life to the fullest.

Email me:

About Olivier Jeannel:

After a degree at UC Berkeley (Poli Sci ’02) Olivier left for the charms of the Old World. He pursued studies in international relations at Sciences Po Paris (’04), but eventually settled for a career at a telecom mulinational, Orange, working in finance and market studies for 8 years.

Today, Olivier has left his job to launch a startup business. His ambition? To enable the deaf worldwide to be able to make phone calls. Discover his project: RogerVoice Phone




Janet DesGeorges: Leadership Thoughts

April 4, 2014

Leadership Thoughts

Janet DesGeorges, H&V Executive Director

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Below is a compilation of thoughts about what it takes to be a leader at Hands & Voices! Hope you enjoy these simple comments! These are taken from the bi-monthly H&V E-NEWS series. If you would like to get on the list to receive information, resources, and updates from Hands & Voices, contact:

What are your priorities?

“It is easy to develop a list of fifteen to twenty priorities, but I would argue that this is the same as having no priorities. Human beings typically can perform at a high level only if they focus their efforts, and the greater the number of priorities you have, the harder it becomes to focus.”
(Robert Steven Kaplan, What to Ask the Person in the Mirror: Critical Questions for Becoming a More Effective Leader and Reaching Your Potential)

So, what are your priorities? I have discovered over the years that many people would like me to focus on their priorities, and if I don’t have a good mechanism for the n-word (“NO”), then I may never get to what is really important to me and to achieving our goals at H&V. Remember, sometimes saying ‘NO’ to someone else’s request for your time/energy is a ‘YES’ to getting to what you know are the really important things. So, today, you might want to practice a ‘no’ or two. Someone once told me that my plate is full, and every time I say ‘YES’ to something, something else on that plate is slipping off. That visual has helped me to understand that there are only so many hours in the day, and we just have to be smart about our desire to say ‘YES’ as well as our ‘NO’. I am so grateful for all of you out there that have said ‘YES’ to the priority of supporting families via the Hands & Voices network. Now THERE’S a good ‘YES’!

Slow Down

“Slow down and enjoy life. It’s not only the scenery you miss by going too fast – you also miss the sense of where you are going and why.” -Eddie Cantor

It is always good to reflect on how far we’ve come at Hands & Voices, and where we are going! With over 50 chapters in full swing here in the U.S. and abroad, it is more important than ever to know where we are going and why! To all of you who put your heart and soul into this organization, I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Don’t forget to have a little ‘down time’ when needed. Remember that our organization is here for the long haul. We want to be a part of something that will exist beyond us, and into the next generation of children who are deaf/hh. So, relax…. AND get ready for a busy, action packed year of supporting families who have children who are d/hh. I know I am!

Feeling Overwhelmed

“When you come upon a wall, throw your hat over it, and then go get your hat.” – Anonymous

Feeling a bit overwhelmed? Wondering if you really have time for all this? (And by ‘this’ I mean improving the systems that serve our children who are deaf/hh.) There are times for all of us when the obstacles seem too challenging. Someone says, ‘we tried that and it can’t be done’ and that seems to diffuse or deflate us. We are not sure whether our efforts will really make a difference. REMEMBER where we have come from, what we have accomplished already, and what we want to achieve.

We seek to support:

-A solid foundational start to the journey for our kids through informed decision making.
-Strong, healthy, communicating, language-laden children.
-Educational Excellence for all deaf/hh students.
-Prepared students ready to enter the work force.

Sounds daunting? If it were easy, others before us would have achieved these goals already. Keep your eye on the prize and keep moving forward. Together we can make a difference!

Pass it On

PASS IT ON…. One of our HQ Board members, Harold Johnson recently sent me a link to a TED talk about ‘Crowd Accelerated Innovation’ – talking about the concept of information dissemination and innovation in this age of technology (specifically YouTube). Not only the ability to pass on information, but about how innovation can actually be replicated and improved upon as it is passed on from one source to another. It’s been one of the defining characteristics of H&V. One chapter has a good idea, and another chapter replicates and builds upon on it -and successful support to families grows in both quantity and quality. So, when you have a good idea, a successful event, or good resources you’ve come across -pass it on… If you are interested in this concept and want to see the TED talk, click here.

Process is Important“It’s not just what we do, but how we do it!” One of our favorite sayings around H&V HQ is to ask ourselves as staff/board members, “If I was not able to continue in my position, could the organization go on without me?” That is sometimes hard to do when our self-identity and desire to be needed is embroiled in our lives as leaders. This question ties to our current strategic plan focusing on sustainability and capacity. Organizations at some point cannot exist or depend on one particular individual. But it’s important to expand this concept beyond just the ‘what’ needs to get done to the ‘how’. What are the processes in place that keep the organization healthy? Decision making, prioritization of projects, project management plans…. It’s not just our ‘to do’ items that need consideration. It’s ensuring the procedures are in place and in writing so that if we left tomorrow, others could step in and not only know what to do, but how to do it. We want H&V to be strong, healthy and moving forward long after we are gone. That’s an empowering thought!

Find out more about Janet: Janet DesGeorges at Hands & Voices