By Nicolas Frias

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Update - Apr 25, 2017

Dear Friends,

We visited the twins Aylin and Andrea in Oaxaca last February and found the girls and their family are doing very well. We have very good news: thanks to all your help we were able to arrange for Fabiola, their speech therapist, to train both, Lorena, the twins mother, and their school teacher. Now, on Saturdays, Lorena, the twins and the teacher head down to Oaxaca where the adults get 3 hours of theory and then 1 hour with each girl with hands on practice supervised by Fabiola. We are very confident that this arrangement will help their long term progress and success.

The twins on the left and their sisters Lorena and Lopita on the right. In the center with the hat is Sarah's daughter, Nora. They came with us to Oaxaca and we all played games and drew with chalk on the cement.

Aylin and Andrea are growing fast and are adorable as always. They just announced that they want us to be their Padrinos for their Quinceañera celebrations. Boy are we in trouble...

Many thanks.

Lori & Nico

Update - Nov 25, 2016

Dear friends,

We are sure November 8th, 2016 is going to be remembered by many things, especially in the USA, but you can rest assured that we will also remember it because is the day that Aylin heard her mother's voice for the first time. Aylin, displaying your usual pre-teen cool wasn't going to cry or make a scene but she was very happy and a little confused. Her mother Lorena on the other hand...well, she is her mom and can cry all she wants. Aylin's 3 other siblings and her two grandmothers, also made the long bus trip to Mexico City for the event. No one was disappointed.

In the second video you will hear Aylin's mom, Lorena, call out her daughter's name and then burst out in tears when for the first time in her life, Aylin heard her mom's voice.

Video 1: Aylin gets connected.

Video 2: Aylin hears her mom and she (her mom) loses it.

Video 3: Aylin first lesson.

After 3 days in Mexico City they headed back to Oaxaca and started auditive therapy right away. Both Aylin and her sister Andrea have therapy twice a week and the rest of the family has to attend a couple of sessions on their own to learn how to help the twins at home. The therapists want every interaction to be a spoken one and to refrain from using sign language as much as possible to force them to develop their hearing.

We will send more developments when we are back in Oaxaca in February to visit the family again.

Many thanks, intense gratitude to all of you for making a truly profound difference not only in Aylin's life, but in her whole family's life and in ours too.

Lori & Nico

Update - Oct 9, 2016

Dear friends, it is with immense gratitude that we report that the surgery was a great success. We spent a week in Oaxaca and México City helping Aylin and her family get through the process with lots of "hurry up and wait" moments dealing with public hospital bureaucracy, but everyone was kind and they received great care. Aylin parents, Lorena and Heladio, promised that they will make a short video for us when the doctor connects the cochlear implant in four weeks after all the swelling of the surgery goes down. Take a look at the X-ray, so exciting!

Aylin's fraternal twin Andrea also has severe hearing loss and we were able to get her a new hearing aid that promises to help. We will know on Monday how that goes when they go to the doctor to have Aylin's bandages removed. Here we are with Aylin, Andrea, Lorena and Heladio.

Again, many times many thanks again for making this possible.

Update - Sep 22, 2016

We have wonderful news: The surgery is scheduled for Oct 5th! Even though we haven't quite reached our goal, we have enough to buy the cochlear implant and so we will go ahead. Aylin and her family are very excited and now we are on a mad rush to organize the trip. We (Lori and Nico) will travel to Mexico on Sep 30th to help them out with transportation and the stay in Mexico City.

Update - Sep 13, 2016

We just tallied all the money we got from the dollar-for-dollar match and we are very happy to announce that we collected and additional $3,665 and thanks to our anonymous donor we got it doubled to $7,330!

We also want to report that we spoke with the people at AMAOIR and they are very enthusiastic about helping Aylin. We estimate that next week we will be able to send the money for the cochlear implant which means that the surgery will probably happen sometime in October.

Update - Sep 1, 2016

As we passed the halfway mark we want to thank all our donors so far. The big news is that yesterday we were happily surprised by an anonymous donor that offered to match dollar-for-dollar every donation from now until Sep 9th. We are absolutely thrilled with the offer and are hoping to close the gap with this generous gift.

Also, we are coordinating with Lorena (Aylin's mother) and with the people at AMAOIR to schedule the surgery. With a bit of luck it will happen by mid October and we (Nico and I) are planning on going to Oaxaca to accompany them to México City for the procedure.

The Story

I met Aylin in 2011, the first year I attended Mary Ellen Mark’s photography workshop in Oaxaca. Mary Ellen immediately put together my love of photography with the work I do at the Isabel Allende Foundation on behalf of women and children, and assigned me to photograph CORAL, a school for deaf children. Two girls caught my eye: Aylin and Andrea, profoundly deaf 4-year-old twins who quickly stole my heart.

Aylin and Andrea

Today the girls are 10, and while Andrea has partial hearing thanks to the help of a hearing aid, Aylin can’t use one, and remains locked in a world of silence. She is, however, an ideal candidate for a cochlear implant.

As many of you know, I have been photographing these precious girls for the past six years, and have come to love them and their family. My annual visits both tear at my heart and renew my faith in humankind. When I first met them, the girls were a sweet mixture of shy and bold, as intrigued by me and my camera as I was of their charm, obvious intelligence and the way they communicated with one another. I know many twins have a private language, but because Aylin and Andrea have been so cut off from the hearing world, in their case it was even more pronounced.

Over the years I have taken thousands of photos of the girls, which has enabled me to witness their sisterhood, their symbiosis and, increasingly, their isolation. Since I first got to know them, the family, which is very poor, has had to move to a village far from Oaxaca and other deaf children, and the girls now attend a one-room school that has very little to offer them. As a result, the possibility of an independent future grows dimmer, especially for Aylin. While her life up to now has mostly been about play, everything in her world is becoming more challenging as she grows older—social interactions, maintaining a community of friends in a predominantly hearing-only world, understanding what is going on in the classroom, etc. Because of her hearing aid, Andrea is better able to communicate, leaving Aylin even more isolated as her sister begins to surpass her in many ways.

Which brings me to something I have never done before—something those of you who know me well will understand is very difficult:

I am asking for your help

Very simply, Nico and I want to fund a cochlear implant for Aylin. To that end, we are teaming with Amaoir—a Mexico City-based organization dedicated to providing medical care and support to people with hearing loss—to have the device fitted and surgically implanted. Amaoir has generously committed to fund the surgery, and CORAL, the girls’ former school in Oaxaca, will handle the pre- and post-surgery logistics. However, Aylin and her family will need a great deal of support in the coming years, including post-surgical auditory training and counseling for Aylin, which will be required to help her adjust to what will initially be an overwhelming new world of sound.

Our goal is to raise $35,000, of which $26,800 will go toward the cochlear implant itself. Since the surgery is being donated, the remaining money will fund ongoing therapies that will help Aylin adapt and thrive, the annual $800 insurance for the device, bus transportation to Mexico City for surgery, and other costs.

Every dollar you give goes in support of Aylin. Chuffed supports only non-profit and social enterprise projects, and unlike most crowdfunding sites, charges nothing for its service. Which means 100 percent of what you donate goes directly to Aylin’s cochlear implant and follow-up treatment.

Wait...But Why?

With all the deprivation I’ve seen in my work with the foundation over the years, why all of a sudden am I asking for your help? Why now? Why this girl? Why just one girl when there is so much need in the world?

All I know is that Aylin has touched my heart, so much so that I feel moved to reach out to my community—to in fact make this a community project. I have been blessed to watch Aylin grow from a small child into a girl on the cusp of young womanhood. Her presence in my life has been a gift, and I would like to return the favor. Please help me to do so.

With deep gratitude,

Lori & Nico

Lori with Lorena, Aylin's mom, and sisters Andrea, Lupe and (little) Lorena.

About some of the perks

1. Photos by Lori

2. Oaxacan wood carvings (examples only, not necessarily what's available)

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Team Members

Nicolas Frias

Lori Barra

Sarah Hillesheim