Ainkawa Erbil, Iraq: At the age of twenty-two, Ranen had never heard a pin drop. She had never experienced the movement of a decibel through her eardrums, living her life in silence and virtual isolation. Along with her younger brother and sister, Ranen had been born born deaf.
However, while Rita and Yusaf both were able to get cochlear implants that bypassed normal hearing processes and allowed them to hear, Ranen was told that her case beyond professional remedy. As the only person in her family unable to hear, Ranen existed in a separate world from everyone, feeling segregated from the family activities. She resented her forgotten, isolated life and her parents for their negligence to even try to help. A humanitarian organization, Mercury One, discovered Ranen and her family living in a refugee camp after they had escaped an invasion from ISIS on their home in Qaraqosh, Iraq. Mercury One was able to move them to safe, dignified living conditions and learned that Ranen and her two siblings were deaf. The organization was able to assist in repairing Ranen’s younger siblings cochlear implant devices and then asked what it could do to help their older sister. Ranen’s father, Ayad, expressed that it was simply too late to help Ranen. Mercury One did not accept that diagnosis. After multiple medical consultations, Mercury One overturned Ranen’s previous diagnosis and, as of August 2017, she had surgery to install a state-of-the-art Medel implant. A few weeks later, Ranen returned to the hospital with her father, Ayad, when she heard sounds and his voice for the first time ever. An entirely new sense was now available to this young woman. A day after returning from the hospital, Ranen attended a wedding where she was able to hear music for the first time. To dance. To move where the notes carried her. And to feel, finally, like just one of the family.
Story written by: Taylor Nam
Born deaf, Ranen stands in the kitchen with her aunt after performing her morning chores on September 15, 2017 in the family home in Ainkawa Erbil, Iraq.
Ranen uses her hands to communicate as she plays cards with her father Ayad and sister Rita on September 15, 2017 in the family home in Ainkawa Erbil, Iraq.
Ranen sits at the kitchen table as her family members carry on a conversation around her on September 15, 2017 in the family home in Ainkawa Erbil, Iraq.
Also born deaf and fitted with a cochlear implant, Ranen's brother Yusaf watches her perform her chores for the day on September 15, 2017 in the family home in Ainkawa Erbil, Iraq. Ranen's sister Rita is also deaf with a cochlear implant. Both Yusaf and Rita's implants were broken and then fixed by Mercury One when they started to help the family get out of the refugee camp.
Ranen sits on the edge of the make shift couch unaware of the commotion of her brother Yusaf and sister Rita teasing each other as mother Suhama steps in to break it up on September 15, 2017 in Ainkawa Erbil, Iraq.
Father Ayad changes his sons Yusaf's cochlear implant battery as he studies with his sister Rita before heading to their weekly speech therapy class on September 15, 2017 in Ainkawa Erbil, Iraq.