Hear Me Out
Supporting those with microtia on their journey with self-image
When Ellie Wilcox was born, her parents noticed something different between her and her twin brother: her left ear wasn’t fully formed. While her parents fretted over the extreme possibilities, the doctors eventually came to the conclusion that it was only microtia, a birth defect impacting the exterior ear. Although the condition is fairly harmless, Ellie struggled growing up having surgeries and looking a little different. However, she gradually learned to appreciate what made her unique from others. While Ellie did gain confidence over time, she still had never met another kid with microtia due to the rarity of the condition (microtia occurs in only one in five thousand to ten thousand births). So during her semester at Alzar School, she knew she wanted to accompany those with microtia in their journey from struggling with self-image to loving what makes them different, all while helping them understand that they aren’t alone. Her project “Hear Me Out” — a mentoring program by and for kids with microtia — does just that. Having someone to relate to can be life-changing for young children, so Ellie and her action team hope to be the role models that they needed as kids.
Implementation of Project
When Ellie began to put her project into action, she knew that the biggest obstacle would be finding participants. So she drafted a post and published it to every microtia support group on Facebook she could find. After many posts and little momentum, she decided to brainstorm other ways to get the word out. Finally, she connected with her own surgeon, Dr. Lewin, who has a non-profit known as Earicles and a social media following from across the world. Dr. Lewin then connected Ellie with her social media manager, which landed her a post on a private Facebook group with 1,500 members. This gave her project the platform to come to fruition and succeed after gaining lots of support from total strangers.
Results of Project
Ellie’s project culminated with her very first meeting with the mentees. After months of working on her project, reaching out to different people with no reply, and researching different activities to do with the kids, she finally got to meet them! She and her fellow mentor Macon Hawse led a 45-minute Zoom together, filled with get-to-know-you games and a fun ending activity.
The kids were shy at first, but connected when responding to funny questions like “what kitchen utensil would you be if you could be one?” and “what three liquids would you squirt out of your fingers if you could choose?” The kids loved it so much that mentee Lucas asked his own question, “what kind of superpower would you have?”
Then, after a few more icebreakers Macon and Ellie led a positive self-affirmation activity and ended with stories about how cool they and all their friends thought their ears were. The crowd was small but mighty, with only three mentees. However, the smaller group allowed for a stronger, more open discussion. Everyone enjoyed the event and it was all worth it for Ellie when mentee Brielle’s mom Jaylene Morton sent her a message saying,
“Thank you so much, she really really enjoyed it and kept talking about both you, Macon, and her new friends.”
When planning her CLP to be a mentoring program, Ellie knew that she didn’t want it to become a one-time thing. After her initial action day, she plans to have monthly meetings with the same group for the rest of the school year. She is excited to further get to know and bond with Macon and their mentees. At the end of her CLP, she created a Facebook Group to help further foster her program. Ellie hopes another wonderful kid with microtia will continue the project after her graduation.