Thursday 8th November 2018 – Ana Maria Belo, Australian stage and screen actor, has signed as an ambassador to The Shepherd Centre – a leading charity that helps deaf children learn to listen and speak. Diagnosed at just seven years of age, Belo says she is keen to open the conversation about hearing loss.
Throughout her career, Belo has experienced different responses to her hearing loss including sometimes not getting call-backs to auditions because of her deafness.
‘As soon as people understand that someone has hearing loss, they think that is all there is to them,’ says Belo. ‘But hearing loss is just a tiny part of who that person is.’
Belo says that often people treat her differently once they see that she wears hearing aids.
‘If I could change that [response] that would be amazing!’ adds Belo.
‘I love what The Shepherd Centre is doing for children with hearing loss, as I work a lot with children,’ says Belo who is also an acting coach and teaches drama to primary and secondary students.
‘I think that children need to have all the tools available to them and The Shepherd Centre does that,’ adds Belo. ‘My family had no support with what I was going through. Had we known about a place like The Shepherd Centre when I was going through all of my hearing loss journey, my family would have really benefited from that.’
Belo’s role as ambassador will be to inspire young families coming through the centre by showing them that hearing loss is not a barrier.
‘We hope that when our families hear of Ana Maria’s journey, particularly given her incredible success in a field such as music and theatre that involves great use of speech and sound, they will be inspired to go on and achieve their best,’ said Dr Jim Hungerford, CEO, The Shepherd Centre.
‘Our focus has always been on supporting children with hearing loss to achieve the best possible outcomes,’ he continued. ‘The vast majority of children who come through The Shepherd Centre go on to achieve speech and language on par with their hearing peers and attend mainstream school.’
The Shepherd Centre last year launched its Beyond Sound Alumni Program which aims to connect, inspire and mentor past graduates of the organisation’s programs. Belo will be involved with many of the alumni encouraging them to continue to pursue their dreams and sharing her experiences and advice of how to work with their hearing loss.
To hear more about why Ana Maria has chosen to support The Shepherd Centre, watch her video here:
Deafness affects one in 1,000 Australian babies born each year. The growing number of children graduating from The Shepherd Centre’s world-leading program reflects the increasing demand for early intervention support for childhood hearing loss across NSW, ACT and Tasmania.
Many people don’t realise it costs around $20,000 per year to provide this essential early intervention therapy to allow them to reach their full potential. As a charity organisation, The Shepherd Centre relies heavily on public donations to fund over half of this cost. To help The Shepherd Centre continue its life-changing programs for children and young people with hearing loss, visit www.shepherdcentre.org.au or call 1800 020 030.
For more information, interviews or for media enquiries regarding contact:
The Shepherd Centre
0407 201 394
About The Shepherd Centre:
The Shepherd Centre is a NSW-based not-for-profit organisation specialising in early intervention to help children who are deaf and hearing-impaired develop spoken language skills. Since its foundation, The Shepherd Centre has opened up a world of sound for more than 2,000 children who are deaf or hearing impaired. The organisation is recognised as a world leader in the field of Listening and Spoken Language early intervention, providing families with assistance to develop their child’s speech, so they can reach their full potential.
The Shepherd Centre relies heavily upon fundraising and donations to support the more than 500 Australian families who turn to them for help each year. The services cost nearly $20,000 per year per child and the funds donated help give deaf and hearing impaired children access to critical services.
More information: www.shepherdcentre.org.au.