Another nice day with a later start time of 9:30 am and watermelon for breakfast! This morning, we left at 9:30 and drove about 15km south of Lusaka on Kafue Road to Munda Wanga Environmental Park.
This turned out to be a lovely area! It is a “rehabilitation” place for injured animals, although did not see any evidence of that! First we had a guide (Sikopo) who took us around to see all the animals. We started with “puku” – a type of deer; then some ostriches, which were cool to see – we learned that the darker colored ones are males. Then we saw zebras! They were really close to us!! The lions were hiding, and then we saw a variety of other animals including baboons, impala, turtles, crocodiles, some birds etc. Sikopo had a memorized script that she used to describe each animal.
After the tour we went to the botanical gardens, which were beautiful with lots of arches with different varieties of flowers and plants. We ate our picnic lunch of PBJ, apple and chips.
We left the park by 1:00pm to get to Roma, the suburb where the Nelsons (founders of SHN) live. We were to attend their staff meeting from 2-4pm.
The house in Roma was large with a big yard and 3 dogs. There were chairs set up in the yard and the Special Hope Network (SHN) staff was all seated – 10 Zambian staff members. Eric Nelson the founder spoke for a few minutes about his goals and Beth Bailey also spoke. They introduced a couple of others: Laura, their health care person and Andrew – their advocacy person. We also met their kids: Sam and their twin girls, all of who were adopted from Brazil and have Down syndrome. Beth has a Zambian child with autism, and Laura has also adopted a Zambian child with a disability….
We had a very nice conversation and discussion between the Zambian staff and our students. Kate and Jill answered some of their questions about hearing and Nicole about speech. I was most impressed with Sipiwe and Milika the two managers of the community care centers at Garden and N’Gombe compounds respectively. Milika is also working on a degree in social work. Beth had read our blog from yesterday to them and they really appreciated it. They are all such remarkable people!I think we learned a great deal from them and it was mutual.
Back to the lodge by 5pm and while everyone got off to go do a yoga class with Anyea, I went to a gas station with Emmie to fill the tank for the trip tomorrow. Came back, saw the yoga class in full swing and glad I decided not to join because I could not have done the things they were doing!
Back for pizza at 7pm, delivered to our lodge by Debonairs. The pizza was good and we had it together in our room. We started our de-briefing, and here are the student thoughts at de-briefing:
- The botanical gardens were beautiful, even more enjoyable than the animals
- The zebras were the best, and also the ostriches
- They really enjoyed meeting the founders of SHN and hearing their story of how they started SHN
- They were impressed with how the Nelsons seem to have thought of everything, starting with the community care centers, but also their ideas for expansion, such as adding a center for children whose parents could pay, having a vision to have services for adults, providing transportation for doctor’s appointments, having the attendance incentive (families receive a care package including food etc. if they attend the sessions regularly) etc.
- They liked the dogs at the Nelsons
- They understood that due to cultural differences, the upbringing of typical babies in Zambia is very different than in the US – babies are expected to grow up to be who they are meant to be. For example baby talk is not used, babies are not read to or sung to as they are so often in the west
- They thought that the Zambian staff at SHN were very well trained and compared it to their grad school clinical practicum: i.e. the staff had their practicum at the community care center and then had classes with Holly Nelson
- They were impressed that the staff did assigned readings about the various disorders they were interested in and were so motivated and dedicated and passionate about their work
- One particular comment from Sipiwe was especially poignant: she said that when she gets to work she forgets about her personal worries because she is working with the kids, and it’s only when she gets off work that she remembers her own problems
- They appreciated the way that the solicitations of donations to SHN was brought up – they said it was done in a way that did not make them uncomfortable
- They also had ideas for our study abroad program for next year such as:
- The alumni of the program (i.e. they) may be able to make donation for next year’s program
- In addition to the general brochure we provided this year regarding communicating with children with severe intellectual disabilities, maybe we could consider doing disorder specific brochures
- We could do communication boards
- We could do more ASL – maybe a better poster for the wall
Packed lunches for tomorrow – the usual and we leave at 7am for Victoria Falls! Today’s blog post was a challenge because the wifi is dow. Th internet dongle we bought did not work on my laptop, but fortunately it did on Jenn’s laptop, so I used her computer to post this blog.
Feel like we are having a 4-day weekend due to the nice outing this morning!
Finally, here is a student reflection about yesterday’s meeting with the UNZA students from Elizabeth:
We went to UNZA, one of the 2 public universities in Zambia, where we planned to meet our buddies who we have been e-mailing for the past few weeks. Driving up to the campus buildings, we saw at least 2 cows out on the lawn just chilling in the morning sun. When we arrived and unloaded the bus, two gentlemen shook all of our hands to welcome us to Zambia and their university. I thought this was very polite but was a little confused as to why they were spending so much time greeting complete strangers. When they introduced themselves, it turned out that they were actually two of our pen pals who we had been e-mailing! They led us up the 5th floor of the education building where most of the other e-mail buddies met us for an in depth conversation on the differences in special education programs between the US and Zambia. We also talked about the differences in the perception of disabilities and empowering disabled children to be able to insist upon receiving assistance that is legally their right.
After this great discussion, the students took us out to tour a little of the campus. Unfortunately with time running short, we weren’t able to complete the tour. However, we did get to see a lot of the buildings, get pictures with our buddies and with the group, and get a closer look into dorm life on the campus. Our buddies called them ‘hostels’ instead of dorms, and they were very different from Purdue’s dorms. I saw one washing machine while walking through, but the students then hung their clothes outside wherever there was space. In one of the pen pal’s rooms, we saw that four girls stayed in one room with 2 beds, so each bed was shared by 2 girls. I was surprised at how much closer the students were to each other, and I applaud how they make it work. Personally, I’m not sure how I would handle sharing a twin bed with someone all year round. Sadly, we had to say good bye to our friends so that we could hurry on to our next stop. We are still hoping to get another evening with them, because I know we all have more questions!