Toowoomba’s Hear and Say Centre on Ruthven Street has received a visit from the local Freemasons, who met with families and staff to hear how a state-wide grant for half a million dollars from the Hand Heart Pocket the Charity of Freemasons Queensland is making a difference in the community.

Toowoomba and District Masonic Council Acting Secretary Gordon O’Donohue described the visit as eye-opening. “In addition to meeting families and staff at a special morning tea, we also got a tour of the facilities and sat in on a group social skills playgroup,” Gordon said. “This gave us a real insight into the life-changing work being carried out at the Centre to empower children with hearing loss to hear, listen and speak and ultimately go on to lead a more independent life. Seeing just how many local families have been touched by the state-wide grant was incredible, not to mention, how many more families stand to benefit in the coming months. We’re just proud that this grant was made on behalf of the Freemasons of Queensland to impact children in communities across Queensland including those in our local area, ensuring they go on to have the same opportunities in life as their peers.”

Collectively, the grant will mean that 200 children across the state will continue to have access to Hear and Say’s Audiology Services, and 300 children can take part in the Early Intervention Program at Hear and Say’s Centres in Toowoomba, Brisbane, Townsville and on the Sunshine and Gold Coasts. Hear and Say Chief Executive Officer Chris McCarthy stressed how important essential listening and spoken language therapy is to a child’s development. “It can take up to six years to teach a profoundly deaf child to listen, process language, and speak, using the latest technology and an Auditory-Verbal Therapy approach, so it’s vital that our services remain accessible – for children to be ready for mainstream schooling,” Chris said. “We are extremely grateful for this funding from Hand Heart Pocket. Without this, Queensland children could miss out on vital services and programs that build their potential. We also thank the local Freemasons for their show of support for our local Hear and Say families. It truly means a lot to them to know the local Freemasons are supportive of the grant.”

Hand Heart Pocket Chief Executive Officer Gary Mark said providing sustainable support to charitable initiatives that have limited access to other funding sources was the organisation’s focus. “Our values are centred around empowering people to lead better lives,” Gary said. “Support for education initiatives for children with a disability aligns with Hand Heart Pocket’s long term strategy, and we are delighted that this partnership is enabling more children in Toowoomba and throughout Queensland to have a future which will not be limited by their hearing loss.”

The grant that was handed over earlier this year will help to cover the funding gap to deliver critical early intervention services, ensuring continuity of support for deaf children throughout Queensland for the next year – till the full financial impact of the National Disability Insurance Scheme is known in late 2018.

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