Deaf South African hiker looks to conquer Kilimanjaro to help deaf kids hear

Tracy Duncan, 36, from Goodwood in Cape Town, was born with a profound hearing loss. Normal hearing is 100% in both ears, but Tracey could only hear 15% of normal.

But Tracy hasn’t let her hearing impediment stop her from making an impact in the lives of others, as she, along with a team of 13 other hikers, prepare for their trek up Africa’s tallest mountain, Mount Kilimanjaro, in August, the Climb4Deaf Challenge.

I have worn the most powerful hearing aids from the age of 9 months, yet I could still hear very little with it. I depended so much on lip-reading, and it was very difficult to grasp what everyone was saying. I would miss out on dinner conversations with the family, music, the sound of rain and many everyday sounds. At 30, Tracy decided to get a cochlear implant operation, and it changed her life drastically.

I cried when they switched on the processor for the first time. I am hearing much more now and I’m still learning new sounds every day. I became more confident, and I speak much more clearly. I would love for deaf kids to have the same opportunity I had. The earlier you have the cochlear implant, the better you will hear, said Tracy.

She says that doctors are giving babies as young as 6 months old implants, but the whole process is very expensive when you don’t have medical aid.

Tracy said that her medical aid only paid for a portion of her implant operation, and she had to raise R65 000 to cover the costs.

Not many children’s parents have the same support that I had. The total cost of an implant is over R375,000 – R400, 000 per child, added Tracy, who is a senior Graphic Designer by profession.

This year, Tracy is teaming up with the Be the Best Version of Yourself Foundation, which is a non-profit company, and other deaf hikers to embark on a journey up Mount Kilimanjaro to raise funds for children who desperately need cochlear implants.

The Be the Best Version of Yourself Foundation is all about bridging the gap between the hearing and deaf communities in South Africa, provision of cochlear implants for children born deaf by funding the cost of the implants, related therapy, and lifelong support costs, as well as hearing aids for qualifying children.

She added that it was the dream of the foundation to provide at least one child born deaf with the gift of hearing, but with the support of ordinary South Africans, they hoped to do so for many more in 2022.

Tracy desperately needs assistance in raising funds for her trip, which will, in turn, raise much-needed funds for those who require cochlear implants.

The Be the Best Version of Yourself Foundation was created to serve humanity. Through its various programs, the foundation has realised that there is a strong need to focus on uplifting communities and community members.

One of the foundation’s directors, Nolan Pillay, has been involved with the deaf community since 2019, and that had led him to start raising awareness of the challenges faced by the deaf. He recalls the late Khethiwe Madi’s words at his launch, What if all of you could not hear and I was the only one who could hear; who is the one with the disability?

Mount Kilimanjaro is the highest mountain in Africa, and the highest single, free-standing mountain above sea level in the world: 5 895 metres above sea level and about 4 900 metres above its plateau base.

The summit is a one-of-a-kind, collaborative initiative supported by the Be the Best Version of Yourself Foundation and the Miss, Mr and Mrs Deaf South Africa.

The climb up Kilimanjaro is one of the foundation’s key programmes for the 2022 calendar.

According to the foundation, the team of 13 ambitious climbers includes seven team members from the deaf community.

Pillay says he believes this is the start to bridge the gap between the hearing and deaf communities.

The deaf climbers include: Rian Cornelius, 47, of Durbanville, Vicky du Preez, 44, from Wellington, Kurt Dirks, 36, of Parklands, and Anesh Magan, 45, of Rylands Estate.

They are Mr Deaf South Africa 2017 1st runner up, Mrs Deaf SA 2018, Mr Deaf SA 2018 and Mr Deaf South Africa 2021 2nd runner up.

Our shared vision is to make a difference in our communities, said Tracy.

We have decided to put our lives on the line by climbing one of the highest and most dangerous mountain peaks in the world to raise awareness and to alleviate the daily challenges our deaf community faces.

The team is scheduled to summit Mount Kilimanjaro in August 2022, a week before the September 2022 International Deaf Awareness Month and the pageant.

The Climb4Deaf Challenge up Kilimanjaro with Be The Best Version of Yourself and Miss, Mr and Mrs Deaf South Africa organisations and 13 hikers will seek to raise funds for The Hearing Loss of Southern Africa to help deaf children to get cochlear implants to hear.

Tracy says she is very passionate about encouraging the hearing community to break the communication barrier between them and the deaf community by learning the South African Sign Language through her NPO.

I also motivate the deaf community to believe in themselves and see their disability as an ability to make a difference in the world, she said.

To assist Tracy and her team, you can find out more about Tracy’s trek up Mount Kilimanjaro on the Be the Best Version of Yourself Foundation on social media, or you can contact Tracy Duncan directly via email: tracyannengel@gmail.com.