Changing lives
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Changing lives

An art exhibition at TCDC hopes to raise funds to help children experiencing hearing loss undergo cochlear implant surgery

Changing lives
Prof Nantawat Boramanand, right, with Kullapat Kitaroon, who underwent cochlear implant surgery.

After Savitree Phongpratuang noticed that her youngest son, Kullapat, did not have verbal skills to communicate, she decided to take him to see a paediatrician at the age of two. The results showed that his development was normal, so he was sent for a test and was diagnosed with hearing loss.

"My son could hear only loud noises such as fireworks or machines, but he couldn't hear when I called him or talked to him. Moreover, he couldn't tell me what he wanted and how he felt. Instead of speaking to me, he usually communicated using his hands and gestures," said Savitree.

She and her husband, Matee Kitaroon, initially did not know how to improve their son's hearing. After an online search, they found information about cochlear implant surgery, which is a treatment to help people with severe hearing loss. Savitree sought advice from a mother whose child had a cochlear implant and was recommended to contact Rajavithi Hospital, where she learned the cost was 500,000 baht per ear.

"We didn't have that much money, but we didn't give up. Fortunately, we discovered the Foundation for the Deaf under the royal patronage of Her Majesty Queen Sirikit The Queen Mother provides financial assistance for cochlear implant surgery. In our case, the foundation helped cover half the cost."

With support from the Foundation for the Deaf, Kullapat had the surgery when he was four years and 10 months. Following the operation, he was able to hear and speak and is now undergoing auditory and speech training.

Kullapat is one of the many children who received financial support from the Foundation for the Deaf for cochlear implant surgery -- a procedure that can change lives.

Works by guest artist HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn. (Photo: Prof Nantawat Boramanand)

According to the Foundation, three out of 1,000 newborns in Thailand experience hearing loss. However, only 80% of these children undergo cochlear implant surgery due to the high cost of the procedure. The procedure is better for children if it is done by the age of two due to speech and language development.

In December 2022, the Foundation for the Deaf received 11 million baht in financial support through an auction of photographs and artworks at the exhibition "The Tale Of Two Cities: Epilogue" by Prof Nantawat Boramanand, at the Thailand Creative & Design Center (TCDC).

The exhibition showcased black and white images by Prof Nantawat and artworks by five guest artists, including HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn and botanical artist Phansakdi Chakkaphak. The 11 million baht raised from the exhibition was able to fund 20 cochlear implant surgeries, including Kullapat's.

"Cochlear implant surgery can change the lives of young patients. Seeing children who once experienced hearing loss being able to sing like everyone else is a miracle beyond words. This technology is incredible," said Sook Sanan Jotikasthira, chairman of the Foundation for the Deaf.

"It is a good thing that we can help others. The Foundation for the Deaf is dedicated to its mission. Since this brings benefit to individuals and society, I will continue to support the foundation until I am no longer able to," said Prof Nantawat, artist and former dean of the Faculty of Law at Chulalongkorn University.

"The Tale Of Two Cities" exhibition in August 2022 at Central: The Original Store was the first Prof Nantawat held with proceeds going to the Foundation and raised over 600,000 baht, which unfortunately could only fund cochlear implant surgery for one patient.

Kullapat with his parents Savitree Phongpratuang, left, and Matee Kitaroon.

"People at the Foundation for the Deaf and I spent a lot of time and effort organising the exhibition, but the proceeds could help only one patient. After that, I started thinking about how to raise more funds to help more patients. While walking in Paris, I saw collaborations between celebrities and designers. It seemed that even products like bread and chocolate were the result of collaboration. Hence, I came up with the idea of having an exhibition with five guest artists," explained Nantawat.

This year, from tomorrow until May 25, Nantawat will hold another monochrome photo exhibition titled "Last Year Photographed By Nantawat" at TCDC. This exhibition also showcases works by 10 guest artists -- each of whom has transformed photos by Nantawat into new works using their own style.

The guest artists are HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, ML Chiratorn Chirapravati, Phansakdi Chakkaphak, Prof Thavorn Ko-udomvit, Prof Yanawit Kunchaethong, Boonserm Premthada, Nakrob Moonmanas, Atchalinee Kesornsook, Arinya Kanthino and Rakfah Sutterlin.

Nantawat explained that he titled the exhibition "Last Year Photographed By Nantawat" to let viewers know that all the photographs are new. None of them are from previous exhibitions.

A piece by Boonserm Premthada.

"When talking to friends who are exhibition sponsors, they questioned if I would display the same photos from previous showcases. They didn't know that I have taken many photos. In a month I usually take tens of thousands of digital and film photos. Thus, the title is to inform viewers that all the photos have never been displayed anywhere else, since they were taken between Jan 1 to Dec 31 last year," explained Nantawat.

He hopes that "Last Year Photographed By Nantawat" will raise more funds than the previous exhibition since he aims to help as many children as possible on the waiting list for cochlear implants.

In addition to donating to the Foundation for the Deaf, Sook Sanan hopes that people with normal hearing will better understand those with impairment.

"People with hearing impairment may look like those with normal hearing, but they struggle to integrate because they communicate using sign language. Therefore, there is always a gap between people with hearing impairment and others," said Sook Sanan.

"We also tried to organise an activity where students from other schools could interact with students at the Setsatian School for the Deaf. It would be nice if people learned some sign language and interacted with those with hearing loss. I hope the gap between people with hearing impairment and people with normal hearing can be bridged."

"Last Year Photographed By Nantawat" runs at Thailand Creative & Design Center (TCDC) Gallery, 1st floor, Charoen Krung Road, from tomorrow until May 25. Admission is free. Visit

Sook Sanan Jotikasthira, chairman of the Foundation for the Deaf.

A work by guest artist ML Chiratorn Chirapravati.

Kullapat Kitaroon after cochlear implant surgery.

A work by artist Nakrob Moonmanas.

A piece by Atchalinee Kesornsook.

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