5 Points of Volunteering

By Chelle Wyatt

Finding your people.

Hearing loss can be lonely. The world feels against you, sometimes your family too. It’s a deep, dark pit of quiet (and tinnitus). If you’re lucky, you wander across a support group like the SayWhatClub and start to feel a little less like a freak.  You begin feeling at home with a bunch of new friends, making meaningful connections.  

After another big hearing drop in 2009, I re-joined the SayWhatClub. Six months after being on the list, someone asked me to volunteer. I hadn’t thought about it, but why not? It wasn’t like I had anything else going on. I had just quit doing hair after 20 something years because I was deaf in noise. My self-confidence was at an all time low. I was cleaning a few houses (not much hearing involved with cleaning), and I had nowhere else to go so yes, why not give of my time.

Point 1: Volunteering opens up other worlds, the 2nd phase of leaving isolation behind.

I became a list representative for a SWC email list. I was introduced to another part of the organization, meeting more who were hard of hearing and gaining new friends. Friends were important because I’d already lost a few because of my hearing loss (I couldn’t “chat” endlessly on the phone anymore). I appreciated my fellow volunteers just as much as I did the others on my email list and over time, one of those volunteers became a very good, dear friend. SWC became my safe place for communication, it’s a written world with no hearing involved.

Point 2: It kept me busy and stopped my negative thinking cycle.

Being a list rep gave me back some of the responsibility I had been missing. I popped into email often to make sure the list was moving along smoothly. I welcomed new people to the list, trying to make sure their questions were answered hoping to pass on the same sense of home I felt. Occasionally I helped settle differences of opinion, in the spirit of teamwork. It kept me busy and kept my mind off my own troubles.

When the SayWhatClub held a convention in town, I volunteered for that too. I enjoyed being a part of building the con and putting faces to names, gathering more friends in the hearing loss world.

Point 3: Volunteering for SWC gave my own hearing loss a sense of purpose.

Over time, my hearing loss became less of a burden and started to feel like experience to share; on the email list, in the List Rep committee, conventions and writing on the SWC blog. I became a professional full time volunteer, I joked, as I became the List Rep chair. I was reaching out more into the hearing loss world for convention purposes, meeting more people. My self-confidence built back up. I was far from isolated and my hearing loss was asset in this world.

Point 4: Learn new skills while volunteering.

While stepping into my roles, other volunteers with experience supported me along the way. I wasn’t sure about being List Rep chair but the former chair was on hand to answer questions and offer advice when needed. The same with the convention committee, I knew nothing coming in but had the will to learn. I learned to reach out further into the hearing loss world, looking for guest speakers and sponsors. It was all valuable experience and I learned to be a leader again.

Point 5:  It looks good on the resume.

A local part-time job opened at the state Deaf and Hard of Hearing Center as a Hard of Hearing Assistant. The job required teaching classes and giving presentations on hearing loss. I almost didn’t apply for a few reasons. I thrived in the online world. Also, I was still trying to find my way back into doing hair, clinging to my old life, should I give up on that? What the heck I decided, maybe I could do both hair and hearing loss part time so I applied.

Which required writing a resume, the first in a long, long time. Adding information to the resume made me realize I had more experience than I thought, thanks to SWC. I learned I could organize events. During the two years I was off from doing hair, I built new skills and worked well with others. Because  I hadn’t been idle, I got the job. I worked part time for 5 years, and in January 2018, it became a full time position.

The hearing loss world gave me a place to belong. I found my tribe, across the United States and right here in Utah. I never would have pictured myself ‘here’ nine years ago when I was struggling after another big drop in hearing.   And ‘here I am in a whole new life!   I have let go of doing hair almost entirely. Now I embrace the hearing loss community. This is where I belong, and SWC helped me get there.

I encourage others to volunteer, especially if you’re in that pit of isolation. The SayWhatClub emphasizes the benefits of volunteering in its Mission Statement. We understand that helping others reduces feelings of isolation, frustration and despair, while enhancing feelings of self-concept and optimism. Open yourself up, and see where it leads. Other SWC volunteers will support you in learning new skills.  What do you want to learn? Where might you go? There’s lots of opportunity in SWC.  

Some areas SWC needs volunteer help

  • The SWC website committee needs people to keep the webpage current by checking links and editing pages.
  • Help the Hospitality Committee welcome new people into SWC who inquire on the website.
  • The List Representative Committee could use help on the Facebook groups, and if you’re on an email list already, inquire if they might need help.  Two of the lists are looking for new List Representatives.
  • The Social Media Committee is looking for people to help with the main SWC Facebook page, making memes for SWC, writing on the blog, and would love to have someone make our Twitter account active again.

Remember no experience required, just a willingness to learn.


Happy 20th Anniversary SayWhatClub!

We recently had our twentieth anniversary.  Unfortunately our website was down for remodeling, but  somehow that seemed appropriate.  We’ve branched out in different directions over the years and our new website reflects this growth.  One of our directors, Linda Binns, commemorated the event.   

It was 1992; long ago, and far away, deep inside an AOL chatroom, (before AOL was actually part of the ‘internet’, inside a category called ‘disAbilities’), a few friends discussed their shared experiences, about their common hearing loss. As they supported one another, and commiserated, shared ideas, tips and coping skills, an idea glimmered in the background – and as their meetings and discussions (and participants) grew, the idea began to bear fruit. What if there was a club?   A group, connected by email, on the internet, more than a chatroom, where people could subscribe, find socialization, like-minded friends with hearing loss, share technology, news about hearing loss, and even include the people who love them?  What if. . .?  It was big project, but these few soldiered on, determined to make their dream a reality.

They looked around, reviewed state laws and policies, and determined that the state of Washington was most friendly to the type of organization they wanted to create. A lawyer was obtained, and they filed appropriate documentation.  In December of 1997, the SayWhatClub was born!

Fast forward twenty years; the SayWhatClub continues to grow and prosper. We trademarked our name in February of 2008.

There are now approximately 370 people on the several email lists. Our social media groups, Facebook Friends with Hearing loss, and Gen-Y, add another 848 subscribers. And there are 1,945 people ‘following’ the SayWhatClub on our public Facebook page.

We just want to say ‘THANKS’ today, as we wish a resounding HAPPY ANNIVERSARY, congratulating the SayWhatClub on 20 years! Our volunteers, past and present, work tirelessly to keep it happening, keep it relevant, keep it interesting on all our various ways of connecting. Our past BOD (Board of Directors) and members have given so much of themselves, and we’re thankful for their dedication and commitment. Each and every committee chair and volunteer continues to solidify and maintain the presence and strength of the SayWhatClub.

Special thanks to our own Alan Sprague, who provided info to me to fill in the blank spots from those early years, along with ‘Bob Deafie’, and several other SayWhatClub pioneers. Alan remains with us today, helping to keep our lists active and vibrant.

So, today, THANK YOU!!! We’ve come a long way, and we’re not tired yet! Thanks for being here! Enjoy the ride!

Linda Binns
SayWhatClub BOD (Board of Directors)
December 20th, 2017

How I Found the SayWhatClub

By Robyn Carter

Screen Shot of a road sign with someone riding a bike while wearing a cochlear implant

I was implanted back in 1993.  I was the 8th adult in New Zealand to receive the implant. As there were not many others and no support group back then, I started looking online for some hearing loss/cochlear implant support groups to join.  I also was the editor of our NZ Cochlear Implant Newsletter so I was looking for articles to share to our recipients and would-be recipients here in New Zealand.

SayWhatClub History

I found Bob’s email first. Bob had written an article for the Adult Late Deafened Association about faking it, when you don’t really hear something, but are too embarrassed to admit it, or too tired so you nod your head, laugh and pretend you knew anyway. This article resonated with me as I was such a good faker. So when I found Bob’s email address, I flicked him an email to tell him how much I enjoyed his article.   The result of this was that he just subscribed me to the SWC.  That was in 1995. And I’m still here.

SaywhatClub lists

There was only one email list back then – SWCForum. It was a busy list full of controversial conversation, often heated, often hilarious, and from there I forged many friends – many whom are still my friends today. Some of them are long gone from SWC, but there’s a good many still on the listserv with me today.

The list enabled us to converse like we never had before. We could write our feelings, what was happening, we were lifted when we were down, and in turn shared our experiences so that others may grow. There were fights, indignation, jokes, laughter and sometimes even tears, but most of all there was acceptance.  It’s the feeling that we have finally found a niche where we could be what we were without fear of ridicule for being hard of hearing.

Cochlear implant technology

I was the only one with a cochlear implant back then, and I was careful not to emphasise it too much as many people were still very anti-implants.  Gradually, I watched people accept the technology and embrace it.  I’ve seen many who swore they never would get one, actually have one now.  I chuckle quietly, but secretly I’m thrilled the gift of hearing is somewhat restored, so they can enjoy life again. I feel overjoyed that this hasn’t meant that they left SWC. In fact most stayed, and the list is richer for the experiences  they share.

I’ve watched the list grow – from a single list – SWCForum, to six lists!  We also offer three Facebook pages, a blog, and we even have a twitter account somewhere!  Each list has different personalities, even though we all have hearing loss in common.

SayWhatClub Leadership opportunities

SayWhatClub is now an incorporated society run by volunteers. At the top we have the Board of Directors who meet monthly and take responsibility for the club’s growth, putting in place improvements and try and keep up with the ever changing technology over the years.

Our committees ensure the smooth daily running of the organisation.  They manage the website, welcom new members, and ensure the lists don’t stagnate.  Another committee is for organising our yearly conventions.

Saywhatclub conventions

We have a convention every year in a different part of America each time. These involve workshops, socialising, and loads of fun. You get to meet in person the people you’ve been talking to for years. I’ve been very lucky to attend three of these – one in Philadelphia, one in San Antonio, and one in Boise, Idaho. The friendships that I forged over the years, are now cemented in person.

SayWhatClub’s International presence

SWCers come from all over the world. We have USA and Canadian members, and also Australia, Netherlands, Finland, the UK, and India to name but a few.  We are a diverse group, from different backgrounds, different religions,  but our hearing loss binds us together.

SWC for me helped me grow as a person. It gave me opportunities that I never would have been given otherwise, and helped my confidence.  SWC taught me patience. It taught me about American Politics (although I’m not sure I’m richer for that!).  The SayWhatClub taught me about different cultures.  Most of all, it taught me that valuable friendships can made across oceans, across cultural divides, across political divides, and no matter what we say – we’re still friends.

It’s now 2017.  I’ve now been a member of the SWC for 22 years.  I’m still here. My implant is now 24 years old and I’m starting to feel old!

Check out the SWC Website, and if it’s what you’re looking for, click “Join”. You won’t be disappointed.

You can also join our Facebook Groups, we have two – one for people between 18 and 40, SWC Gen-Y. The other  for everyone, Say What Club, Friends With Hearing Loss.  We also have a public Facebook page, SayWhatClub, A Worldwide Forum for People with Hearing Loss where we share many hearing loss-related articles, videos, news items, and useable information.

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