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December 2019
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European Friendship Week

By Robert Mandara, Vice-President EURO-CIU; 

European Friendship Week (EFW) is an annual summer camp for European youngsters with cochlear implants, held in Boston Spa, England. EFW is organised by The Ear Foundation and sponsored by both EURO-CIU and The Ear Foundation.

In July 2019 I was privileged to participate for a second time as a volunteer UK leader.  In all, 48 youngsters and 26 country leaders from ten countries attended.

EFW helps youngsters to build self-confidence, enjoy peer support, make new friends, improve team-working and problem-solving, and practice using English.  With a diverse range of activities, there is something for everyone.

Sports included croquet, boules, hoopla, chain ball and basketball.  Towards the end of the week, having been briefed in the rules of cricket by one of the cricket-mad English youngsters, we all attended a great Yorkshire versus Lancashire game at Headingly Cricket Ground.

On the creative side, the youngsters enjoyed workshops at Leeds Art Gallery, pillowcase decorating, baking cakes, making ice-cream and a hilarious bin bag fashion show.  On days out we visited Harewood House, Bolton Abbey and rode on a steam train.

One evening we all went to a small pub in Boston Spa and held a pub quiz.  One of the locals visited the pub and was very surprised to find it so busy.  As he ordered his drink, he noticed that almost everyone had cochlear implants.  One of the leaders explained to him that EFW was bringing together many nationalities with hearing technology.  The gentleman described it as brilliant to see so many people from different countries with cochlear implants socialising and enjoying the quiz.  Similarly, people were asking about our group at the cricket match, where one woman mentioned that her own daughter had an implant.  Clearly, a positive spin-off of EFW is that it raises awareness of EFW and of people with cochlear implants.

Throughout the week, the youngsters made presentations in English about themselves and their countries.  With each presentation the audience enjoyed national treats such as chocolates, sweets, salmon and salted liquorice.  I was mightily impressed by how confidently all of the youngsters made their presentations, and particularly how some of the more reserved ones suddenly commanded attention once they had a microphone in their hands.

Sometimes it’s the unscheduled happenings that people will remember most.  At 6 a.m. one morning we were all rudely awakened by a fire alarm.  Waking and evacuating so many bleary-eyed deaf youngsters is no mean feat.  Many did not have chance to grab their processors.  The fire brigade arrived, identified the faulty sensor that triggered the alarm and then let us all go back to bed.  Fortunately we had started the week with a fire drill so were well-prepared for the real alarm.

A key theme this year was “feelings”, led by Diana Harbor of The Ear Foundation.  The youngsters were taught about the red, yellow, blue and green zones of feelings and given strategies for how to move themselves into the preferred green zone.  This was fascinating and I was pleased to see the youngsters keenly absorbing the information.

EFW is mainly organised and managed by Clare Allen (from The Ear Foundation), who does an outstanding job.  She is supported by “Stretch” (Martin Richards) and a team of enthusiastic young UK volunteers, some of whom attended EFW themselves when they were younger.  All of the UK and other country leaders work together as one happy team to make sure that everything runs smoothly.  We were joined for the first few days by Diana Harbor, and for one day by Sarah Allen, both of The Ear Foundation.

EFW is the first time that many of the youngsters become aware of EURO-CIU.  I hope that, by spreading the word, some will choose to get involved in EURO-CIU later on.  In any case, to get younger blood in EURO-CIU, we need to make youngsters aware of our existence.

I am thoroughly impressed at how intelligent, well-adjusted, well-behaved and articulate all of the youngsters are – with due credit to the miracle of cochlear implants.  It was wonderful to talk with them and to share ideas and stories.  Likewise, I learned a great deal from the other country leaders, several of whom are also implanted.

All in all, EFW is an excellent summer camp which enriches the lives of young CI users, helping them to fulfil their potential and opening up possibilities for the future.

If you wish to be involved in next year's event then get in touch with Clare or Rachel - clare@earfoundation.org.uk - rachel@earfoundation.org.uk

Sep 17, 2019

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