Honoring the legacy of Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King and the day of service he inspired, here's the story of a Cochlear volunteer and the rewards of hearing and caring.

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: what are you doing for others?” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Taking place each year on the third Monday in January, the MLK Day of Service is observed as a national holiday—a “day on, not a day off.”

Today we’re honoring the legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the day of service that he inspired by sharing the moving journey of one of our Cochlear volunteers, Jonel Carswell, and her mission of kindness and compassion to others in her community.

For more inspiration and information on the MLK Day of Service, please visit https://www.nationalservice.gov/mlkday.

Where do you volunteer, what is its mission and how did you come to be involved?

Emmanuel Lutheran Church is in Livonia, Michigan and Shepherds of Service (SOS) is a volunteer group that was formed at the beginning of 2016. It’s mainly a visitation program to help people who are going tough times in their lives. Prior to joining SOS, I volunteered with Stephen Ministry, which is found in most religious denominations and requires 6 months of intense training before working with one person at a time. My husband and I were in the first group that was trained and we served for 10 years, until it was discontinued.

During my time as a Stephen Minister, I did not have cochlear implants yet, but did have hearing aids. It was a giant leap of faith for me to train for this program, but I never regretted it! I told each person that I worked with that I needed to see them to be able to lip read what they were saying. No one had a problem with it and it greatly increased my confidence in working with people one-on-one.

Because I was born with moderate hearing loss, I received lip reading and speech training in grades 2, 3, and 4 and then was mainstreamed in grade 5. I had been born with a moderate hearing loss, but became deaf at age 46 from Meniere’s disease. I had the most powerful hearing aids, but they didn’t help much.

When SOS formed in January 2016, I decided to volunteer with them because they had a need for volunteers to work with people individually, and … I had obtained a cochlear implant at age 70 and a second one at age 72! I was good to go!

SOS is considered a caring ministry and offers services to individuals who are hospitalized, homebound, in a care facility, in need of Holy Communion, or struggling with personal issues. They also provide transportation, meals, minor house maintenance, outdoor chores, and grocery shopping. There are some volunteers who do outreach by sending out cards, mailing grief books, maintaining an email prayer chain and providing information to those who cannot attend services or inactive members on various events and news.

What type of volunteering work do you do?

I work with people one-on-one in their homes. We talk about whatever they need to discuss and just by listening and repeating back to them what they are trying to figure out, most of them can solve their own problems or, at the very least, feel better after they have verbalized what is bothering them.

What inspired you to volunteer with this specific organization?

It is through my church and I already know most of the people who are involved in it.

What is your favorite part of volunteering?

It is a very rewarding thing to watch a person come to grips with their situation or problem and figure out how to cope with it or how to change it or how to accept it. If you can have a small part in helping a person resolve or change their problem, it is so gratifying. You feel like your life counts for something if you are able to guide and help someone else. It is also a great way to make new friends!

Do you think having a hearing implant has made a difference in your ability to volunteer?

Having cochlear implants has given me so much more confidence in myself and has made my life much happier. I am much less threatened by a new experience and willing to give it a try. If I want to do something now, I am less hesitant about trying it to see if I can do it and have been pleasantly surprised when it all works out! Hooray for cochlear implants! They have changed many lives!

Nancy Klein
Nancy Klein is the Cause Marketing Manager for Cochlear Americas. She is responsible for managing Cochlear's philanthropic relationships and campaigns that enhance awareness and contribute to the greater good. With a background in non-profit marketing, Nancy continues to be inspired by the life-changing nature of her work with Cochlear.