Today the team had a great day at PCOE (Pediatric Center of Excellence) and two separate Special Hope Network compounds. To begin we took a tour of PCOE, which is part of the pediatric department of the University Teaching Hospital. PCOE initially specialized in HIV/AIDS, then furthered their services to accommodate the needs of the children they see. Next our team split into two groups and tackled two separate compounds with Special Hope Network employees to screen the hearing of over 50 children. Overall, every team member gained a lot of knowledge regarding HIV/AIDS, the healthcare system in Zambia, and hearing screenings.
As PCOE has developed, they conduct a variety of consultations; such as OT, physio, child neurology, child early intervention groups, child early learning groups, speech therapy, HIV evals for mothers and infants, counseling for sexual abuse, and pharmaceuticals. After our tour to see each programs’ room we listened to a presentation regarding HIV/AIDS, the neurological effects of HIV, and the developmental intervention clinic (DIC). Lastly, we created schedule cards and narrative stories for the speech therapy sessions, early intervention groups, and early learning groups.
During the presentation, my eyes were opened to the many aspects HIV plays in a child’s life. First, Alice, the Director of the DIC shared some statistics about Zambia. We learned that of the 14 million people in Zambia, 50% are under the age of 15 and 17% are under 5. As I looked around at my classmates, I could see wide eyes and mouths opened. This number surprised me, and made me reflect on my cultural awareness as in America our elderly population is growing. In 2013, the Zambian government drafted an early child development policy, which is very exciting to hear as early intervention is key for child development. Lastly, another interesting aspect of the presentation included the steps taken at the developmental intervention clinic of the PCOE. The process includes referrals (self or hospital), intake, neurological assessment, therapy assessment, intervention, and outreach. This process is incredibly thorough.
While observing the early learning group, the OT fused OT activities and speech/language activities. The group included the child, their caregiver, and two therapists. During the session each child had the chance to select a song to sing together, rolled play-doh like they would for nshima, and colored a picture. Each song had hand motions to enhance gross and fine motor skills. Also, during each activity such as rolling the play-doh and coloring the picture there would be a song. The OT said there was a song for each activity to allow maximal auditory input in hopes the child would develop words or speech sounds. The therapists at PCOE are clearly making an impact on these children’s lives. Throughout the session, I observed an extraordinary amount of patience, wisdom, and care. These images will forever be in my memory to reflect upon.
Our next adventure lead us to a Special Hope Network compound where we conducted hearing screenings for over 50 children and a few adults. Most of the children had an intellectual or physical disability and a heart made of pure gold. The amount of patience the caretaker and children had while waiting to get a hearing screening spoke to my heart. Many of the caretakers did not even realize the details of the screening, and were quick to leave after one test. The little things in life like waiting in line for 15-30 minutes at a fast food restaurant, doctor’s office, or bathroom irritate me, but seeing these individuals waiting without grumbling makes me reflect on my actions. As the week progresses, I see more and more situations I am learning from and taking away valuable lessons.
Reflecting upon today as well as the previous days, I joyfully pronounce how close our team has become. I could not imagine experiencing SLHS in Zambia with any other group of people. With great guidance, we have experienced and learned many things as well as helped organizations or spent quality time with children who will always have a piece of my heart, even if I do not know their name.