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YoungGems® entrepreneurship program for deaf and hard of hearing: An inspiring event

Mehra Lester

Posted on May 30, 2024

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While entrepreneurship should be accessible to all, unfortunately, it isn’t. It continues to be often elitist and exclusive. On the other hand, inclusive entrepreneurship aims to ensure that all people, regardless of their personal characteristics and background, have an opportunity to start and run a business. Entrepreneurship and the ability to generate income can be deeply rewarding and drastically improve the lives of vulnerable communities alike.

In 2005, a study found that over 3.55 million Australians were living with hearing loss. Nearly half of them were working age (16-64 years). Adults with hearing loss are more likely to be unemployed or underemployed and face many obstacles in their careers, from unexpected barriers to attitudinal discrimination in the workplace. In addition, according to World Health Organisation, over 5% of the world’s population – or 430 million people – require rehabilitation to address their disabling hearing loss (including 34 million children). It is estimated that by 2050 over 700 million people – or 1 in every 10 people – will have disabling hearing loss. That is why HiddenGems, a customised version of the YoungGems program for deaf and hard of hearing community, was set to change that, and the first-of-its kind program that launched in April 2019 in Australia. Here is our founders’ take on this exceptional experience.

In 2019, I had two of the most amazing and rewarding experiences of my working life. And that is a tall order given I have had so many highlights over the past 20 years including spending a week on Necker Island, launching my business in Asia and launching a Diploma in Entrepreneurship and Innovation with Kaplan Singapore. We launched YoungGems® entrepreneurship program with AccessPlus, our partner in WA for the program. It is a take on our YoungGems® program, but this time designed for the Deaf and hard of hearing community.

I take all my projects seriously and with a high level of passion and dedication. This entrepreneurship program has felt different though to anything else I have ever experienced.

I knew that the pressure would be on with this program. Here I am a hearing person and not having had any former exposure to the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community, yet delivering a program to the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. Essentially, an outsider coming in, to impart my knowledge, wisdom and mentor this group of individuals, who experience unique barriers that I could possibly not understand myself.

When I first met our cohort, I was nervous and worried about how they would accept me. Delighted to say, after signing initially to the group to welcome them and to communicate exactly how I was feeling – happy, excited and nervous, I was thrilled at how quickly I bonded with this inspiring group of individuals and how warmly they welcomed me into their world as their mentor for the next 12 weeks and beyond. What struck me the most about the kickoff of our entrepreneurship program was the energy, enthusiasm and emotion in the room over both days. It was at times raw, truthful, beautiful, honest and real for everyone there – from the participants, the interpreters and for me and my team – somehow everyone in the room was acutely aware of how special this program and experience truly is – and it is only the beginning.

Being behind an entrepreneurship program that is making such a positive difference already is mind blowing for me. With one participant travelling two hours each way to come to our classes saying that he wouldn’t miss it for the world and how much this means to him, to another one saying he didn’t want the classes to end, to seeing an interpreter tear up when we played an inspiring video about overcoming fear and barriers to meet your goals – everything so far has been incredibly moving. I know this is only the beginning of this incredible journey. This is the kind of stuff that makes me want to jump out of bed and work as hard as I do. Bring on the rest of the YoungGems® program.

Meet Hamish one of our HiddenGems alumni.

Want to bring YoungGems® to your community? Contact us here. 

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