Deafness and loss of hearing can be alienating for young people, who struggle to find new ways of self-expression. But one charity project is using art as a way to give hearing-impaired children a voice.

“[Art] is to not only be a creative outlet for the students, but it also shows the public what hearing-impaired students can do, and not on what they can’t, focusing on their abilities rather than their disabilities,” says Hjh Noorafzah Dato Paduka Hj Ahmad, the manager of the Hear Better Services Company.

Through its CSR initiative, dubbed the ‘Better Hearing, Better Living’ charity project, the company has organised art workshops for hearing-impaired children with the help of the Rainforest Gallery and Special Education Unit, Ministry of Education. They plan to stage an exhibition of the students’ paintings at The Mall from January 24 to 28.

The paintings will be available for sale, with the funds going towards purchasing hearing aids for students. Hearing aids are expensive — costing upwards of $6,000 — and since 2013, the charity project has raised money to buy hearing aids for 35 students.

Hjh Noorafzah hopes that the the proceeds from the sales will be able to sponsor at least three children for hearing aids.

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“We had help from corporate sponsors who have been supportive, and this year we hope to sponsor four more students,” she says.

Hjh Noorafzah says developing communication skills can be a real challenge for hearing-impaired kids.

“Even those who have normal hearing have to express themselves in different ways… We noticed that they have various talents and one of the talents which we found was common amongst the group of students was art,” she explains.

“In this digital age where people don’t communicate with each other in a traditional way, you can feel very alienated. The bazaar brings the hearing-impaired community together to see what we can do for each other.”

Some of the artwork that will be on sale at the upcoming Hearing Awareness Charity Bazaar & Exhibition to raise funds to purchase hearing aids for students. Photo: Rasidah Hj Abu Bakar/The Scoop

The Hearing Awareness Charity Bazaar and Exhibition at The Mall, which kicks of on Jan 24, is a joint effort by the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education, DST and the Hear Better Services Company.

One of the featured artists is 20-year-old Abd Suwari Hj Zaabar.

When he was nine, he was fitted with his first hearing aid. Last year, he was one of eight students sponsored to get a new hearing aid under the ‘Better Hearing, Better Living’ project.

“When I was nine, I was embarrassed for having to use it because many people were curious. Many thought that I was wearing an earpiece. I explained to them that I’m wearing hearing aids so that I can hear them clearly,” says the IBTE student, who is in his final year at the Nakhoda Ragam campus studying design and draughting.

“There’s actually nothing to be ashamed of for wearing hearing aids. No one is perfect. Wearing hearing aids is not something that you should be ashamed of.”

Rainforest Gallery manager, Dato Paduka Hj Shofry Hj Abd Ghafor, who helps facilitate art lessons for the students, says when people buy their artwork, it is a real endorsement of the artists’ talent and shows people’s appreciation.

“For these children, [when their] artwork is available for sale it’s not only good for raising funds but it also helps them gain confidence and make them feel good about themselves. It’s not just saying nice words to them but you can actually see it in dollars and cents.”