Today was another usual morning at Zebra Guest House where I met students in the dining room at 7:00am for breakfast bringing apple juice, PB and a watermelon that I cut with the very small knife provided by Alisa!
We departed at 7:30am with Pearson and made it to Beit Cure Hospital by 8:00am as planned. Christi and I went inside and it was once again great to see old faces that I recognized: Violet is still at the front desk and we also briefly met Melissa Ebbers whose husband is CEO of the hospital I believe. We had to wait there for a few minutes while the ENT mobile truck was brought around and that’s when Pearson said he needed gas in the bus! So off they went to the gas station while I waited for the ENT truck, which came by before our bus. Thankfully, the bus too returned very soon after and it was great to meet Evelyn the ENT nurse and Patson the audio technician who we had worked with last year! We set off for an area of Lusaka called Zingalume. We drove past a very large cemetery – looking mostly unkempt – very different from cemeteries in the US, which are well maintained. We also drove by the city dump where all the trash from the city is brought and appears to be burned as we saw it smoldering.
We turned onto a dirt road that was quite narrow and winding….following the dust cloud behind the ENT truck……
and finally reached the Mthunzi Centre, which is an orphanage, funded by Amani which appears to be an Italian non-profit (or NGO as they are called here – non-governmental organization).
Mr. Malama the manager of the Centre was very organized and knew all the children and clearly not only cared about them but also was so proud of their accomplishments. We all gathered in a room where he introduced himself, started the meeting with a prayer by a young man (Ricky, a social worker at the center), told us a little about their organization and then had all the children introduce themselves.
So they have this center for the boys, as well as a program for about 20 girls who live with their families but receive financial support for their education from the organization and he also mentioned a home-based program. Students who do well academically go on for further studies while other students receive skills training.
My impression is that the funds are funneled mostly into education at this facility because as the kids introduced themselves Mr. Malama proudly told us about the kid who got a “7” on his 12th grade exam (equivalent to a 4.0) and has been accepted into UNZA! Quite an accomplishment for a child coming from the kind of circumstances we saw. And also about the contact he has with a Scottish organization that has allowed several of the kids to have a trip to Scotland and most recently to Italy.
We also met two young boys (twins) – Ricky and Ricon (sp?) and we were SO impressed with them! Both boys graduated from the Mthunzi Centre – completed their basic primary school at the nearby school where all the kids go – a 10-minute walk from the center. Then they went to secondary school, which is further away, and it was a boarding school. And they got funded to go study in Nairobi, Kenya for 2 years! Ricky has returned to the center and works as a social worker while Ricon works with technology and IT at the center. It was inspiring to have a few moments with these remarkable young men who have accomplished so much from having so little. And Mr. Malama was also an inspiring person who seems to be running this organization so efficiently!! And knows that education is the way out of this cycle of poverty….
After the introductions we set up for the screenings: 4 hearing screening stations with 8 students and myself in one room and 4 stations with 4 students with Christi in another room for examining ears. Patson and Evelyn staffed the ENT truck. Ricon helped get extension cords so we could set up 4 audiometers in one room and was also going around with a video camera and camera recording the event!
We screened a total of 38 children ranging from grade 2 to high school and beyond and were surprised when we were done – it went by so fast!! 7 children were referred for further testing and we hope they will be able to get to Beit Cure Hospital for follow-up.
With Mr. Malama and Alfred….
From there we drove to the primary school, also along the dirt road. Mr. Malama and the twins came with us to get us there and help us get set up. There we first met with some teachers in what appeared to be a classroom, but we think was called their library. They offered for us to do the screenings there, but there is no electricity in the room – so we waited for a while until we were directed to another classroom, which had power.
Waiting in the “library”
Some of the students needed to use the restroom while we waited so they were directed to it. It turned out that the bathroom was just a hole in the ground! Some of them returned but others used the facilities (we heard about this later!)
Ricon helped us once again set up the power cords and get our audiometers connected and we got started. We had the same format as before with 8 students doing hearing screenings and 4 doing visual inspection of the ears. This school environment reminded me of Kizito Primary School where we went last year, except it was smaller. There were a LOT of kids outside the screening room, peering in the windows curious to see what we were doing and generally making a lot of noise, therefore making it difficult to conduct hearing screenings. I periodically went out of the room to shush the kids while still trying to be nice to them! The students did the screenings and if the child did not understand the task we did an objective screening so we were still able to test them. We screened 50 first graders; 12 of them did not pass and again we hope they get to the hospital for follow-up. But we also know that transportation remains one of the biggest challenges here and getting to the hospital is not an easy task.
We finished up around 1:30pm after signing the visitor’s book and thanking the teachers we left amidst a horde of children waving at the bus as we left.
Lunch on the bus once again and we were really glad that none of the students complained about the late lunch. We drove back to Beit Cure and waited for Alfred to return in their truck so we could get a tour of the facilities. We started in the conference room with Alfred and Violet who explained how the hospital is run. All children seen for neurosurgery or orthopedics can receive free treatment and surgery; however Audiology and ENT have fees for services. They have performed more than 7000 surgeries since they opened their doors about 7 years ago. We got to walk through the various departments where we were given information about what they do:
OPD (out-patient department)
Private ward (where paying patients stay and this is one method of fundraising for the hospital)
Kitchen: Mbita, Elijah and Kelvin were all there and it was great to see them!!!
Assistive chairs from cardboard:
I learned that they just use the space at Beit Cure but are a separate organization: the Zambian Association for Children with Disabilities, and they make the supportive chairs as well as shoes for kids with clubfoot. I asked how they get funding and they actually started with their own money and raise a little by selling the shoes. SO – here is an example of people doing great work but it is not recognized much and they really don’t have funding to make their organization bigger 😦
Finally we went to ENT/Audiology where Alfred showed us around. Last year the construction was going on to extend their wing. Now it is complete so there is a second office with tiny sound booth for Alfred and a new office for Dr. Uta. There are also 2 new audiometers (Aurical). While there I also saw Charity (the other ENT nurse) and almost did not recognize her because her hair is different – but I did and it was great to see her again also!
The students went outside and waited, but I had a few questions to ask Alfred. I asked him about the child I had seen last week at PCOE whose hearing test results were not in his file. So he looked them up and said that the child had had no responses to any sound stimuli. The family had travelled from the town of Ndola, which is in the Copperbelt. It was really hard for me to listen to Alfred say that there are no resources such as a school for the Deaf in that region. What is one to do for such a child? We also talked about hearing aids for children: so, a child attending a government school who cannot afford hearing aids can be fit with them for no charge, BUT only if they can afford to buy batteries. Fortunately Beit Cure provides batteries at 30 kwacha for a pack of 10 batteries, so the cost is low, but yet that means a trip to the hospital for the family to get the hearing aid batteries and we have already talked about how transportation is one of the main challenges for patients…..
So, the end of a busy day….more tomorrow!