For all his young life, Jeremiah Nixon had to contend with challenges no child should ever experience.
Born prematurely at seven months, he spent the first three months of his life in the hospital because of a brain bleed and breathing and motion complications. He would only start walking and eating solid food at the age of four.
Neither the doctors nor his parents knew it then, but Jeremiah was also born with severe hearing loss, which hindered his speech development. His family would only learn of the condition after he underwent a series of tests when he turned five.
Even after getting hearing aids for both his ears, life did not get any easier for Jeremiah. “He kept removing them all the time because they were uncomfortable,” his mother, Madam Esther, related.
His early schooling days were notably tough for him. “As a hyperactive child, he faced many challenges. The previous hearing aids did not help him hear. Making friends was also difficult, and he did not like going to school,” she added.
Anxious to educate her son, Madam Esther trained as a special needs instructor to homeschool him. “He did not learn anything in school, but with homeschooling, he learned to write his name and solve simple math questions.”
When doctors declared that Jeremiah could not hear, Madam Esther showed incredible fortitude by getting more hearing and sound tests done. “Finally, we found out Jeremiah could hear a little if the sounds were loud. So, at home, we spoke a little louder, and over the years, he learned a little sign language and made out some words by lip-reading us.”
‘His Face Lit Up, and He Smiled Like Never Before’
Thirteen-year-old Jeremiah’s family no longer needs to raise their voices to communicate with him. Earlier this month, he received a new set of high-quality hearing aids courtesy of RYTHM Foundation’s Gift of Life (GOL) programme.
“Jeremiah feels so much better than before. He can now hear sounds and voices. When he had the hearing aids put on for the first time, his face lit up, and he smiled like never before. He is happy and takes care of the hearing aids. He puts them on himself and puts them away carefully when he takes them off,” Madam Esther smiled cheerfully.
Jeremiah has been motivated to learn more since getting the new devices fitted. He demonstrated his love for drawing and making origami during a recent visit to RYTHM’s Kuala Lumpur office.
The doting mother hopes for a bright future for the son. “I only have one hope for Jeremiah. I want him to tutor children like him one day. He also loves dogs and cats and wants to take care of them. He often tells me, ‘Please get me an animal farm. I want to take care of animals.’”
Madam Esther is hugely grateful for RYTHM and GOL coming through for her son. “RYTHM Foundation was the only organisation that responded to our request after our applications for welfare aid failed.” Her teaching job does not earn her much, while her technician husband only earns about RM2,000 (approximately US$450) a month.
Madam Esther advised families facing similar challenges to persevere. “Please do not give up. There is a solution for every child. We must be brave and have hope for our children.
“The Gift of Life programme has given my son the gift of hearing as he has never experienced, and we will always be grateful for that.”
From schools and welfare organisations to underprivileged individuals from rural and underserved communities, GOL has aided hundreds of people, including indigenous groups, children’s homes, and special needs learners.
The initiative began as an endeavour by QI Group Founder and Executive Chairman Dato’ Sri Vijay Eswaran and RYTHM Chairperson Datin Sri Umayal Eswaran with personal contributions to worthy causes and deserving individuals to mark the couple’s birthdays, anniversaries, and other important milestones.
Today, the programme is a heartwarming aspect of QI’s culture. Family, friends, colleagues, and employees have embraced contributing through GOL in place of flowers, cakes, and other presents to mark special occasions meaningfully.