By Mariann Hughes -- email@example.com
With a shy smile, she spoke quickly in Spanish, looking at her benefactors with earnest eyes beneath her dark lashes.
"I think this is a gift from God," the girl's mother translated her daughter's soft words.
From the happy grins on Kay Bennett and Lee Perkins' faces, it was clear they agreed with 17-year-old Daniela Porras.
Daniela, deaf from infancy, was recently given a pair of hearing aids courtesy of Quota International of Winchester -- a chapter of the worldwide Quota International, which is dedicated to helping especially the hearing-impaired and disadvantaged women and children, according to local club's Web site, www.quotaofwinchester.org.
"Thank you very much for the hearing aids and for giving me this opportunity," Daniela told Bennett, the local club's president, and Perkins, its secretary. "And also for the gift," she added, referring to a twirling music box Perkins had given her earlier.
"To remember Quota by," Perkins said as she handed the wrapped box to the girl.
Sitting demurely in Perkins' living room, the petite teen spoke through her mother, Danidza Porras, about her excitement at now being able to hear sounds that most of us take for granted.
"I feel very, very happy," she said, often flashing her bright smile to accentuate her words. "I am so happy."
Despite her new hearing aids, Daniela cannot perceive voices. She can, however, hear high-pitched sounds, such as alarms, whistles or horns. She can read lips, which is how she communicates with her mother, and knows sign language, which she conveniently taught to her younger brother for those times they wish to keep something secret from Porras.
Daniela's first memorable moment with her new hearing aids came while waiting for her mother in the doctor's office.
"At the beginning, I didn't know what it was," she said of the peculiar sound she heard. "Then I found my mom's cell phone in her purse."
The mother and daughter then shared a hearty laugh over the remembrance of how Daniela's younger brother got locked out of their home on a bitterly cold day because Daniela couldn't hear him ringing the doorbell.
But with the new hearing aids, "At least I know someone's there," Daniela said.
Awarding hearing aids to Daniela is a big step for Quota International of Winchester, which marks its 66th anniversary this year. Daniela is the first person to receive a hearing aid from the local club -- and they are more than eager to add recipients.
"Siemen's and Quota International's 'Sound Beginnings Program' are partnering in a pilot program involving 100 hearing aid vouchers until Sept. 30, 2009," Perkins said. "Quota of Winchester has applied and received four of the vouchers. ... If we find a child 17 years or younger who needs a hearing aid prior to Sept. 30, the application will be sent in, understanding that the limit may be already met, or the child may not qualify for the program."
The local club has found a possible second candidate -- an 8-year-old child -- for the devices. Anyone who is interested in receiving help from Quota, according to Perkins and Bennett, can contact the local club to begin the necessary paperwork.
Earlier this year, one candidate fell through due to Medicaid issues. The disappointed club had been searching for another recipient, when Perkins, who volunteers with the Salvation Army in addition to her duties as Quota's secretary, was chatting at an event with a Salvation Army employee -- Porras.
Porras and her family have been in America for only five years. Originally from Costa Rica, Porras' husband is a pastor with the Salvation Army.
The typical challenges of moving to a new country were even more daunting for Daniela -- not only did she have to learn to understand and read an unfamiliar language, she also had to learn American Sign Language.
When Perkins discovered that Porras' daughter was hearing-impaired, she was quick to inform her of her role in Quota.
"We're very thankful," Porras said of the gift. "I don't know how to express [it]."
Hearing loss hasn't diminished Daniela's zest for life or her big plans for the future. A junior this fall at Millbrook High School, participating in an individualized educational program and working with an interpreter, Daniela is interested in becoming a Spanish or math teacher. Her dream is to attend Gallaudet University -- a school for the hearing-impaired.
"It makes you almost humbled to see someone like her because she's so matter-of-fact and she's overcome this," Bennett said.
More information on the program can be found at www.quota.org under the link "Children's Hearing Aid Program" on the left side of the page.
To Learn More about Quota
*To learn more about Quota International of Winchester, contact:
Kay Bennett, president: 888-3666
Lee Perkins, secretary: 662-7147
Meeting times: First Thursday of every month. Meeting locations vary. Upcoming meeting is at Jordan Springs (www.historicjordansprings.com) on Thursday at 5:30 p.m.
Web site: www.quotaofwinchester.org
Address: 1520 Commerce St., Winchester
* To learn more about Quota International of Shenandoah County, contact:
Diana Scharf, president: 477-2209
Meeting times: Second Tuesday of every month at Denny's in Mt. Jackson at 5:30 p.m.
* To learn more about Quota International on the worldwide scale, visit www.quota.org
How Can I Support Quota?
Quota International of Winchester will hold its annual "Kitchen Kapers Tour," taking participants around five beautiful local kitchens in the Winchester area, this September.
The proceeds from the event will benefit the C-CAP (Congregational Community Action Project) of Winchester.
What: Kitchen Kapers Tour
Where: Various homes in the Winchester area
When: Sept. 20, 12 to 4 p.m.
Cost: $15 in advance, $20 at the door