Senior Staff Writer
The Medical Audiology Student Society organized the Mesh Aayb fashion show on Friday, September 15, next to the Saab Medical Library at AUB.
Their aim was to help normalize the use of hearing aids and to raise enough money to provide 10 hearing aids to people in need of them. Solara Sinno, the Medical Audiology Program Coordinator, helmed the organization of the show with the help of her sister, Sabine Sinno, and the president of the program’s student council, Tamara Accaoui.
The program manager explained that the decision to organize a fashion show fundraiser rather than a gala dinner originates from her experience as a student at the International College (IC) school. Her time there taught her that these events raise more money than dinners, and actually allow people to see the kids with hearing aids, therefore making their disability a little less foreign.
For Sinno, it all started in March 2016. She was testing the hearing of a young girl, only to discover that she had severe hearing loss. The main issue was not the fact that the girl had hearing loss but that her well-educated father refused to let her wear hearing aids. For him, it was offensive and would elicit the laughter of the Lebanese society. Sinno notes this incident as a realization of how necessary it is to destigmatize hearing aids.
When it came to the fashion show itself, the attendees were greeted with welcome drinks accompanied by a performance by The Unplanned, a local AUB-based band.
This was followed by a welcome speech in which Solara Sinno highlighted the lack of support from the government in providing the necessary equipment to help the thousands of kids affected by hearing loss. She also revealed that they had raised double the amount of hearing aids they were aiming for. This was topped by an unexpected donation of five additional hearing aids by the family of one of the models.
The runway presented a variety of kids and university students, both with and without hearing difficulties. Still, most models were equipped with hearing aids along with their fancy outfits, which outweighed devices’ presence.
The fashion show was divided into multiple segments, each sponsored by specific brands. The first part showcased “Abercrombie & Fitch” clothing. It was followed by models wearing clothes from multiple stores such as “The Kript”, “Trunk”, “Lucky 7”, and then “101 sqm”. The final segment of the show brought the designs of a number of Lebanese designers to the runway, including some from “Project Runway Middle East” and “LAU Elie Saab Fashion School”. To name a few, the designers included Alaa Najd, Issa Hesso, Sara Melki, Roni Helou, and Lobnan Mahfouz.
A dance choreographed by the AUB Hip Hop Club and an emotional speech read on behalf of Karen Boustany punctuated the runway show. Boustany lost her hearing at the age of two as a result of meningitis. In the speech, her brother-in-law described the difficult times she faced living in a society that does not know how to interact with deaf people, and going through college, barely being able to understand spoken English. The speech was concluded with a simple phrase: “Stay humble, be kind and never give up.”
Prominent Lebanese fashion blogger, Lana El Sahely, wrapped up the show with a speech discussing Lebanon’s unhealthy obsession with appearances. Standing tall in her Rami Kadi jumpsuit, she talked about how the number of children suffering from hearing loss surprised her. The blogger emphasized that out of the 12,500 children suffering from hearing loss in Lebanon, only 750 attended specialized schools. While some cannot afford it, others are just ashamed. Lana underlined the negative impact this can have on a child’s education and communication skills.
In this fashion show, the Medical Audiology Student Society was able to achieve the perfect blend between entertainment and sincerity. They communicated their message effectively through the use of various mediums.
The gist of this fundraiser was that no stigma should hinder the health and education of a child. It is important to destigmatize hearing aids and normalize hearing tests in order for children to be able to save and protect their hearing.
The superficiality of a society shouldn’t stand in the way of a person living the best life possible. Hopefully, the Mesh Aayb campaign will be successful in its effort to destigmatize hearing aids and lead the way to end other health stigmas.