Max Clark recently stepped down from his role as a trustee for the NFD Trust, a position he has held since 1998.
A highlight for Max was his experience with providing funds to Deaf or hard of hearing students, so they were able to attend university and go after their dream career.
He explains, “It was rewarding particularly when we received letters back from students, saying how grateful they were that we made a contribution.”
In addition, he loved being able to provide funds to organise camps for Deaf or hard of hearing children with the Noonan Fund, making money available for parents to take the children for a break.
Max developed hearing loss due to a genetic condition on his father’s side. From an early age his family kept a watchful eye on his experience at school, and were always concerned that he should sit in the front of the class.
However, his hearing loss only became apparent in his early teens.
“I started wearing hearing aids when I was 19, 20, 21 or something like that. From then on it is a degenerative form of the disease, so I had a gradual loss of the nerve cells in the inner ear.”
Max counts himself lucky, because hearing aid technology kept up with his rate of hearing loss, and he has never lived without any hearing.
“I am very lucky in that regard; my father was profoundly Deaf by the time he died. The hearing aids were not good enough at that time, he died in 1988. So far, touch wood, I am able to keep up, but hearing speech requires much concentration. Like many people who suffer hearing loss, it is the speech range which is the most significant loss.”
Max wears hearing aids, his sister has a cochlear implant, and one of his two daughters has started wearing hearing aids in her early 40s. Recently, his granddaughter, aged 10, was told, at a school screening program that she has a problem as well. As a result, she too has just been fitted with two aids.
“It is a nasty form of degenerative disease,” says Max. “There is a 50-50 chance that it will be handed on to the next generation and that is a pretty high ratio.”
Max and his co-trustees had a fundamental requirement to be prudent both with investment and distribution of NFD Trust funds and so always had to ensure that they supported applications for grants that would be most effective in helping the Deaf and hard of hearing community.
The community and the NFD's members can rest assured that the funds of the Trust are protected and distributed prudently and thoughtfully. All funds donated to, and invested by, the Trust, are held in the name of Perpetual Guardian (formerly, New Zealand Guardian Trust).
Moving forward, Max hopes that the Deaf and hard of hearing community continue to receive more awareness and support. He believes awareness lies in the hands of education, education of the difficulties that hearing loss can create, and he stands behind the National Foundation for Deaf and Hard of Hearing’s school hearing screenings to ensure that children’s hearing losses are picked up.
“I believe identifying just how many school-aged children have hearing loss will, hopefully, make the authorities realise the extent of the problem so that many more facilities will be provided to help the Deaf and hard of hearing community."
Max is passionate about raising awareness for hearing loss, because of the isolation it causes.
“Helen Keller, who was both blind and Deaf, said ‘Deafness is the worst affliction because a person is frequently cut off from the company of others,'” quotes Max.
“That is so true if the situation is not corrected. Quality hearing aids, correctly programmed for each individual’s problem, should be available to everybody who needs them.”
Over the past 30 years, Max has made a difference for many people through his administrative role with several hearing charities acting as a trustee for the National Foundation of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. His legacy will continue through an entire generation of grant recipients who were assisted by the NFD Trust to reach their goals, access training, support and services.
The NFD Trust offers grants and scholarships to New Zealanders who are Deaf or hard of hearing.
Grants are also available to those who are hearing able and work in the Deaf and hard of hearing sector.
Learn more about the NFD Trust: