Our last work day!

Our last work day for the SLHS in Zambia 2014 team – we can’t believe it has gone by so quickly!

I started the day with a faux pas – we had decided to leave at 8:15 am this morning instead of 8:30. Well, I finished breakfast and completely forgot about that and was sitting journaling in my room thinking I had a few extra minutes! Until Christi came knocking at my door to ask if everything was OK….. I was so embarrassed at having made everyone wait for me!

We reached the hospital and everyone went to their rotations: Alyssa and Rachael with me in Audiology, Andrea and Kaitlyn in the other Audiology room with Alfred, Kelly and Alexis in Physiotherapy, Amanda and Katie in ENT, Jessica and Julia in the kitchen and Breanne and Rachel between the children’s ward and laundry.

We had a slightly less busy morning in Audiology today but still saw 10 patients with a variety of problems including several children

  • Several children and one teacher from the Breath of Heaven Children’s Village that we had screened on Monday were there! It was nice to see the prompt follow-up that they are receiving!
  • We also saw several young children ranging from 3 months to 3 years who have had fluid in their ears
  • A couple of school-age kids
  • And one older adult

Rachael and Alyssa were quick learners and once again I was impressed with their willingness to try anything including tympanograms and OAE testing even on the youngest children.

Towards the end of the morning we were delighted to hear that the 11-year old girl that we had identified at PCOE was at the Clinic with her mother!!! I had been so disappointed when she did not come yesterday and had texted Alice at PCOE to let her know that the child had not come – I was extra happy to see her! Andrea and Kaitlyn tested her and although her right ear had no usable hearing, she had some residual hearing in her left ear and was ready for a hearing aid fitting! Patson and Andrea made an instant ear mold for her, Andrea pre-programmed one of the hearing aids we had brought (THANKS TO PHONAK FOR THE DONATION!). Then with Patson’s help speaking in Nyanja we were able to fit her with a hearing aid for her left ear. Her reaction was small at first, but as Patson continued to talk to her and ask her questions, she warmed up and chatted a little more. Although we know that she needs time to adjust to her hearing aid and will need follow-up, we were happy to be able to help and hope that she continues to get followed up at Beit Cure and does well at school.

Jessica and Julia (with Kelvin) served lunch at the kitchen today and we had nshima with potatoes, cabbage and meat. We were all asked to sign the visitor’s book at the hospital.


Then at 14 hours (as they say here for 2pm – I am finally starting to get used to that and we are ready to leave!) – the older lady from the N’Gombe compound who I had tested yesterday came for her hearing aid fitting! I was so happy that she returned! Patson had already made her mold yesterday. This time Andrea and Breanne worked together to get her hearing aid ready with Rachel and Julia observing. Despite coming from the compound, she spoke some English and I was able to chat with her. During our conversation I found out that she had walked all the way from the compound to the hospital – probably more than an hour – in order to save on the bus fare. We also found that she goes to the Roma Assumption Parish – the same church that we went to the first Sunday in Zambia – seems so long ago! And she has only 1 child while 6 others have died. We hear so many such stories, yet the people are happy with what they have and their strong faith allows them to be thankful for what they have rather than despairing for what they don’t have. The similarities to the people in India are remarkable, as I have seen the same attitudes among poor people in India. She was so thankful to us and said, “God Bless you for your help” and gave each of us including Patson a hug before she left. She put her hearing aid in the case and said she would wear it when she went to church. Again – we hope she continues to return to Beit Cure for follow-up.

So at about 3pm we gathered in the waiting room for a wrap-up meeting with the ENT/Audiology staff. Alfred does a great job talking with the team and he spoke about the progress they have made since our last visit:

  • They now have trained Precious to be an audio technician and she is able to do hearing tests and they have added Excildha to their staff. We have all been so impressed with her! She is deaf but uses both sign and spoken language (and speaks 5 languages!). She is so smart, graduated from Munali Secondary School last year (one of the schools we visited last year), and her written English would put others to shame it was so good! Having Excildha at the hospital has allowed them to add a sign component where she is able to teach parents basic sign language, since Deaf kids in Zambia do not have an option of cochlear implantation and are generally sent to schools for the Deaf and use sign language.
  • Alfred also spoke about teams like ours that come for short visits as “visiting parachutes” – we swoop in and leave quickly. The question then remains: are we making a meaningful contribution”. He said “YES”, because we now have young people who will become professionals in the field who are aware of the circumstances and needs in Zambia. Although I agree that in the long run, we hope that we do have more professionals who have a broader world view, our short-term impact on the people of Zambia with hearing and speech problems is just a drop, while the impact on our 12 students is far greater
  • He also spoke about the vision for Zambia: for Beit Cure to become the hub and a center of excellence and training in ENT/Audiology while trying to set up the 10 provincial hospitals with audio technicians who could do basic assessments and ear care

After the usual group photos we also briefly met with Melissa and Tim Ebbers (CEO of the hospital) and I could not leave without saying goodbye to my good friends in the kitchen – Elijah, Kelvin and Mbita. I was sorry I did not have a chance to hang out with them this year and ask about their families as they shared their stories with me last year and I would have loved to follow-up to get updates about their families…

ENT/Audiology team:


We left for the lodge about 4pm, and tonight is our farewell dinner!

Team ready for the dinner:


We arrived at Rhapsody’s early at about 5:45 and were seated at our table for 25! Christi and I waited at the entrance to make sure we welcome our guests. We were delighted to have Eric Nelson and Milika Phiri from Special Hope Network (Beth Bailey was ill and unable to come), Mr. and Mrs. Devine from Breath of Heaven Children’s Village, Alfred and Dr. Uta from Beit Cure – it was so nice of her to join us later for a glass of wine even though she had plans for the evening, Pezo Mumbi from PCOE (unfortunately Alice was ill and unable to come), and Mr. Malama from the Mthunzi Center. The only organization from which we had no representation was Cheshire Homes – and we missed them!

After everyone had ordered their food I took a few minutes to offer our sincere thanks to all our community partners. Theses words come from the bottom of my heart:

It really is amazing to be at a table with such a group of inspirational individuals from all these different facilities. It all started about three years ago and I can’t believe that this has been my third trip to Zambia! And the 2nd group of Purdue University students who have had the opportunity to participate.

First and foremost we have to thank Alfred Mwamba at Beit Cure Hospital. Without Alfred’s support none of this would have happened. Special thanks to Dr. Uta, Charity, Evelyn, Patson, Precious, Excildha and all the wonderful staff – everyone from the laundry, kitchen, physiotherapy and children’s ward who so kindly allowed our students to spend time with them and answer their questions.

Andrea, Breanne and Alfred:


This year we had the opportunity to work at PCOE for 1 ½ days. Thanks so much to Alice, Pezo and Sr. Ornella for organizing our activities and to the pediatricians and other staff for allowing our students the opportunity to observe and ask questions.

Kelly and Pezo:


Special Hope Network has a special place in my heart – this is my third year working with this organization and I continue to be amazed and inspired by the wirk you do. Eric, Holly and Beth, as well as all the Zambian staff – Milika, Goodson, Diana, Lois, Dennis, Doreen, Mary and others whose names I may have forgotten, but whose dedication to their work I will not forget.

Rachael, Eric Nelson and Rachel:


Cheshire Homes – my third year working with them also. We learn so much from the wonderful children you work with – their resilience and independence that you instill in them despite their disabilities is inspiring. Thanks to Sr. Petronella, Sr. Cecilia, Ian and all the other staff there.

Thanks to Alfred, we also have two new community partners this year. Breath of Heaven Children’s Village where Mr. and Mrs. Devine opened not only their village but their home to us welcoming us for lunch – we thank you for the opportunity to work with the children at the village.

Mr. Devine from Breath of Heaven Children’s Village and Milika from Special Hope Network:


And Mr. Malama at the Mthunzi Centre – your work to provide education to the children is so inspiring and we wish you many more successful stories with the children.


Mr. Malama

Mr. Malama

We have really enjoyed the warm and friendly smiles and welcome we have received from every Zambian we have met!

Finally, we would like to thank the people back home who have supported us: all the faculty and staff in our department at Purdue University and administrators who have supported the program.

And last, but not least – we thank the students – for your professionalism, your team work, your flexibility and your supportiveness of each other. This program could not be a success without all of your efforts!

Dinner was a huge success – the restaurant and food were great and I had the opportunity to speak individually with each of the community partners who attended. We reached the guest house at 10pm after a long and lovely evening and decided that we would have a pow-wow in the morning since it was so late.

I have to admit that I was very relieved last night and went to bed earlier than I have the past two weeks (11:45pm) – relieved to have coordinated what I think has been another successful SLHS in Zambia program the second time around!





























4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Barbara
    Jun 07, 2014 @ 11:58:02

    Congratulations to the students and to Lata and Christi – amazing work! Thank you Alfred for your vision and positive attitude – you are a special Boilermaker!!


  2. gailbelus
    Jun 07, 2014 @ 17:47:48

    I’m finally catching up on your travels. Best of luck traveling home. We have been in Malawi for one week and having a blast. Think of us the next few weeks and follow us at gailbelus.wordpress.com


  3. sibks
    Jun 07, 2014 @ 22:55:51

    Congratulations on amazing trip! Hope your travels home go smoothly!


  4. Trackback: US Audiology Students in Zambia | Open Ears

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