Indigenous Awareness Committee at Rotary Club of Guelph
BHENY – The Indigenous Awareness Committee’s First Major Project
Under Joanne McAuley’s leadership as Chair, in September 2015,  the committee  wholeheartedly supported fellow member Lynne McCurdy’s interest in helping the schoolchildren of Nunavut. 
Better Hearing in Education for Northern Youth (BHENY - pronounced Bennie)  was the  product of an amazing juxtaposition of Rotarian Dr. Lynne McCurdy’s commitment to  both her profession as an Audiologist and her desire as a member of the Indigenous Awareness Committee to make a  difference in the lives of  Canada’s  hearing impaired Inuit children in Nunavut.
After two self-funded trips to Iqaluit - listening, learning and making many important connections, Lynne honed in on a project that had been dreamed of by the local audiologist and a special education consultant, but had not seemed possible to implement.  This is where Lynne’s knowledge, commitment, and Rotary connections allowed her to envision the BHENY project and moved her to inspire others to join her. 
Audiologists have long known that hearing loss has been an issue in remote indigenous communities throughout Canada.  Studies had shown that up to 1 in 4 children living in the Arctic regions of Canada experience hearing loss - some of the highest prevalence rates in Canada.  Lynne knew that Soundfield Technology systems (for sound amplification), as had been envisioned by her new Northern colleagues, installed in classrooms, could have a significant impact on educational outcomes in children. But it would take money, training and “hands on” time in the North for this vision to become a reality.
The first task was to put together a proposal that ultimately would provide the base funding for a sustainable project in Canada’s north.  Within two months of the decision to “go for it”, Lynne gathered a team of audiologists, educators, and most importantly, Rotarians from the north and from the south, who wrote a 90 page proposal, applying for the prestigious Arctic Inspiration Prize. In addition to Lynne, the local Rotarians involved in this process included Anne Pennock, Ben McCarl and Barb Holmes.  The Rotary Club of Guelph Charitable Foundation ( was the first to step forward with financial support, followed by the Rotary Club of Guelph itself.  The Elks organization in Iqaluit, in addition to the Rotary Club of Iqaluit also stepped up with promises of financial or administrative assistance. Letters of support were happily written by many key people in the north and south. Thus on January 28th 2016, BHENY became one of three recipients of the Arctic Inspiration Prize – a $300,000 award, presented by Governor General David Johnston in Ottawa.
 The Bheny Team receiving their award from Governor General David Johnston.
Peter Mansbridge hosted the Arctic Inspiration Prize Event.
2016 :  The BHENY Project REALLY Begins!
BHENY was off and running.   An application was put forward to Hear the World Fund which garnered another $200,000 worth of Soundfield Equipment, which set the stage for the first launch in Pond Inlet and Pangnirtung.  The K–5 classroom teachers and Student Support Assistants were trained in the use of the equipment and how to troubleshoot it, should the technology need repair. Training also included professional development, connecting hearing loss to gaps in language, literacy and social well-being. Hearing Fairs for the parents and children were also held in both communities and proved to be very successful in teaching about hearing loss, hearing protection and removing the stigma attached to wearing hearing aids. It was a successful launch and proved that the installation and training model worked.  In October, two more communities were visited by Lynne and Barb (Igloolik and Iqaluit) and implementation was accomplished there.
Nunavut children listen to a lesson with the sound amplified through the soundfield speaker seen on the wall. 
Barb and Eric Holmes at Nakasuk Public School, Iqaluit,  for the first day of BHENY Implementation.
Audiologists Lynne McCurdy and Pam Millett prepare for a Bheny Inservice with teachers.
2016 – 2018 Implementation
By December 2018, Bheny team members had worked in 16 communities.  They installed 202 Soundfield systems in 14 schools across the Baffin (Qikiqtani Region) of Nunavut. They trained 235 teachers and 76 Student Support Teachers and their Assistants who received extra training to ensure that the project was sustainable.  One of the highlights of the training in each community was always the Hearing Fair – where children from each classroom rotated through 5 stations dedicated to information about hearing loss with the goal to not only educate, but hopefully to start down the pathway to reducing the stigma around wearing hearing aids.  Approximately 2,791 children attended these Hearing Fairs.
All of this relied on the continued support of Rotary Club of Guelph members.  Trevor Lee managed the money and provided ongoing financial accounting with the assistance of Hazel Dickie. Terrie Jarvis assisted so capably with computer and organizational support. Ben McCarl provided beautiful paintings that served as thank you gifts for every school. Many committee members, including Dianne Dance and Joanne McAuley provided  wrapping support for chocolate “ears”. 
Here are examples of Ben's wonderful paintings, which we also turned into greeting cards.
Of note too is that this project caught the eye of the Medical Officer of Health in Nunavut who was interested in gathering current relevant accurate data on the prevalence rate of hearing loss in school aged children.  A separate report was published in the spring of 2020 in a peer reviewed international journal by Lynne and researchers from Ottawa University regarding this data gathering.
Lynne McCurdy teaches young Inuit children about ear care at the Hearing Fair.
In Lynne’s words, “It has been a most rewarding, life changing experience for me to work in Nunavut and bring better hearing to children in classrooms across the Baffin region over the past 2 years.  I feel both privileged and beyond lucky in life to have had this incredible opportunity.  Now, more than ever, I am determined that we can each make a difference in the lives of others by dreaming the impossible, taking action and thinking big.  I am indebted to my local Rotarians and the countless Nunavummiut and the Dept of Education in Nunavut for putting their trust in me and our team to deliver our plan and improve the lives of children living in Nunavut with hearing loss.”
So, despite the short tenure of the Indigenous Awareness Committee, this project garnered the attention of all Guelph Rotarians, HIP and DART and took the committee from a path of  LEARNING to full fledged ACTION – setting the bar high and inspiring others to become involved.
Update in January 2021:  BHENY “Spin-Offs”
Although the official BHENY project has now wound down, it is important to realize that there have been (so far) two additional projects that were spawned by BHENY’s success. Outlined below are some brief descriptions of these “spin-offs” and some of the ongoing work that Lynne McCurdy, BHENY’s team leader, has been involved with.
Hearing Screening Project
In June 2017, at the request of the Chief Medical Officer of Health in Nunavut, Lynne prepared a proposal for a hearing assessment project in six communities across the three regions of Nunavut to determine accurate prevalence data of hearing loss in children in Nunavut.
The proposal was to test children's hearing in two communities of each region, with the Dept of Education suggesting the elementary schools that would participate.  It was proposed that data be gathered on approximately 200 children in each region. BHENY team members already had good connections and relationships with school staff and senior administrators as well as Government of Nunavut Department of Education staff.  A team of six audiologists from Ontario, including Lynne herself, were recruited to undertake this project. The data gathering was completed in 2018 and published in the international Journal of Audiology in March 2020. The data did reveal very high prevalence rates of hearing loss in school age children across Nunavut. In fact, the prevalence of hearing loss in Canada’s North was almost three times that reported for non-Indigenous children.  One in five school-aged children were found to have hearing loss that is likely to affect classroom learning and social/emotional development.  The study concluded that a hearing health strategy tailored to this population was critically needed.  Hopefully this study will be used to lay the groundwork for improved services.  
Hearing Delivery Model (Pilot)
In the spring of 2019, Rotarian Lynne McCurdy was hired by the Government of Nunavut to help develop an alternative model for the delivery of hearing health care for the Qikiqtaaluk region of Nunavut. A process was developed over the summer and the first pilot run took place in the Community of Pond Inlet in the fall of 2019 with a small team of audiologists. A post analysis of the pilot revealed some changes were required in order to support the delivery into the future and incorporate remote telehealth. No doubt Covid 19 has hampered the ability of the Government of Nunavut, Department of Health to implement an improved hearing health model of service delivery.
Also, in the winter of 2020, the BHENY project was presented at the ArcticNet conference, an international conference allowing global participants to share in arctic research and knowledge. So although the BHENY project is complete, it is interesting to see that BHENY continues to have influence.