Posted by Peter Read on Jul 28, 2023
Rotary International Project – Screening the Hearing of Year 1 and 2 Primary School Students in Tonga
 On 17th January 2023, after a frustrating 3 years of planning and preparation which had been delayed by a pandemic and natural disaster, Rotary Club of Hampton (RCH) in partnership with the Rotary Club of Nuku’alofa (RCN) we were informed by The Rotary Foundation that our application for Global Grant for the project had been approved.
This exciting project has two parts, Capacity Building and Training for nursing staff (38 were subsequently trained) on ear health education at the Vaiola Hospital and subsequently screening the hearing of 2000-3000 primary school students (grade 1 and 2) in 60 schools on the island of Tongatapu, where 70% of the population reside, in Tonga.
The project concept originated from findings of pilot project conducted in 2012 which identified deficiencies in ear/health among primary children in Tonga and the situation that there was no national screening program to identify hearing and ear health problems at an early age, which when addressed would improve educational and social prospects for young children.
Through the RCH’s international Committee, a District Grant was approved to undertake a Community Needs Assessment and the club’s International Director Peter Read, travelled to Tonga to assess the situation, meet with RCN members to discuss the interest in partnering with RCH, meet with communities and Government officials from the Ministry of Health Tonga and develop a project concept based on an assessment of the Community needs. It was decided that external funding support would be required to support an ambitious program of training which could be replicated in subsequent years supported by equipment provided under the project.
Subsequently, work commenced on a fund-raising program involving the preparation of a Global Grant Application, registering the project under RAWCS and marketing to Australian and international Rotary Clubs
The total cost of the project, when developed is in excess if AUD$122,500 comprising AUD$ 40,000 in donations from Rotary Clubs and Districts in several Australian states, New Zealand, Germany and Tonga, private donations from Australia and Tonga, AUD 75,000 from the Rotary Foundation and AUD 7,500 from RAWCS to support preparation of educational material.
Within the budget, over AUD$40,000 was allocated to purchase modern audiology equipment which will be used by the trainees to complete the screening of children in Tongatapu and continue the screening program in Tonga in subsequent years.
The initial project is expected to extend over12-months.
Following approval, the three international members – two Audiologists and Team Leader were mobilised to Tonga in April 2023, where they were joined by Tongan based ENT medical registrar and an additional audiologist/ project manager, community education specialist, to commence the project.
Partners in the project also include the Ministry of Health Tonga who are facilitating and supporting our presence in Tonga and making available local staff for training and on-going screening. Key to achieving successful outcomes is the support from RCN who have worked throughout the preparation and will continue to support in-country activities through to completion.
An important component of the on-going project activities will be further visits to monitor and document progress and at the conclusion of the project, evaluate the project performance.
The project is progressing, with 20-25% schools screened at July 2023.