Our last day in Lusaka for the SLHS in Zambia 2015 program and what a busy day it was!!!
The first stop was Roma Assumption Parish where 9 of us went for the service. Normally the English services are at 7:00 and 8:30am, with the Nyanja service at 10:00am. We left Zebra Guest House at 8:10 am and were well in time as the previous 7:00am service (we thought) was still going on. After everyone filed out of the service we went in and sat down in the pews. I saw Father Clement in the back and recognized him from last year, so I went over and spoke to him, and I am really glad I did! I found out that because of Corpus Christi today, there were only 2 morning services, the English service that just ended and a 9:00am Nyanja service. Knowing that we had to leave at 10:00 to get to our next stop, we moved to the back pews and listened to the service. The Nyanja choir was just as beautiful as the English one I remember from last year! Although we did not understand the words, it was clear that the congregation appreciated the sermon and the priest seemed to really engage them. He also interspersed some English translations for our benefit, which we appreciated!
We left church promptly at 10:00 just as the sermon ended, picked up the rest of the team from the guesthouse and were off to Lilayi, a short distance from Lusaka to visit the Elephant Orphanage there. From the viewing deck we listened to the ranger explain the details of their projects and saw the 4 baby elephants (Zambezi, Mussololo, Nkala and Sunny) amble in, run to get their bottles and finish their milk in a jiffy, and then drink water, chew leaves and branches, play with each other or slosh a bit in the mud. We learned a lot more about the projects this year (compared to last year) as the ranger added a lot of detail such as:
- The most common reasons for orphaned elephants are poaching and villagers trying to get rid of a herd that is eating up their crops and their livelihood
- Therefore, the project tries to find solutions for the villagers that will save their crops and livelihood while also saving the elephants
- The baby elephants are nurtured by 9 keepers who are with them as a “mother” figure 24/7 (on rotating shifts); the babies follow them around all day and stay with them all night
- The 4 babies drink 64 litres of milk per day!
- The babies are pretty much left as “wild” as possible except for the “mother” keepers: they are not washed, ticks are not removed, they are not vaccinated etc., because the goal is to release them to the wild
- When they are ready the babies ate transferred to the Kafue Release Center (Kafue National Park in Zambia is the biggest in Africa I believe) and from there released to the wild
- Other important pieces of the project are awareness and education – so they have programming for about 3000 children in schools about elephant safety etc.
After viewing the elephants and buying a lot of the small fabric elephants made by local women (therefore helping the elephants as well as the local women) we went to the Lilayi Lodge for lunch. This turned out to be a poolside sit-down lunch which everyone enjoyed.
Back on the bus: next stop – Kabwata Cultural Village for a final dose of souvenir shopping.
This ended up being disappointing as many of the shops only had a few wares and a lot f empty counter space…we finally figured out that on our previous visits we have always come to Kabwata on a Saturday. This year we came on a Sunday – the same day that Sunday market occurs at the Arcades mall! So, we quickly decided to go to Arcades and finish the last of the shopping there!
The final business of the day was exchanging any Kwacha back to US dollars and then we went back to the guesthouse. We had about 45 minutes to pack and be outside to have the luggage loaded into the vehicles.
My packing ended up being somewhat frantic as I had gathered all the Audiology equipment and supplies that other students had carried in – a mistake! I thought I’d have enough space – and I barely made it, having to sit on my suitcases to zip them up and have a student who had extra space add a little to her suitcase – whew!!!
Abel and William drove us to the airport and along the way William said we had to stop for gas! Well – too late because we did not have any Kwacha left to pay for gas!!! A quick phone call to Abel who was following with the luggage in his vehicle, and thankfully he said he will just send us the invoice for the last tank of gas! I guess I have known Abel for three years now and it really does feel like I have another family of people in Zambia that I have grown close to over the past three years. The only person I missed this year was Isaiah at Mimosa Café, because we only went there one night and he was not there…..sorry Isaiah – maybe next time!
At the airport – we took a couple of final photos with William.
Then it was time to check in and proceed to the gate. We browsed the shops and the students played cards (this has been a regular activity for them this year!) before we boarded a slightly delayed flight.
Arrival in Dubai was therefore also slightly delayed and reduced our wait time there, so no time to blog and I am writing this on the flight from Dubai to Chicago.
Memorable aspects of this year’s program:
- Our visit to Cheshire Homes is always special: to see the children scooting around, helping each other with mobility when needed, and in general being a rambunctious and happy group is always great to see. This year was particularly memorable as we did a training on Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) there and got feedback from Ian, the physiotherapist there that they are using the narrative stories to help foster some positive behaviors they wanted and it is working well! Also that the sequential cards we had made to help the kids use the toilet were working well and they had even taken it a step further jumbling up the cards and having the children put them in sequence! We are so grateful to hear this type of feedback and hope that we can continue to facilitate and work with the remarkable individuals at Cheshire Homes
- Our visits to Special Hope Network’s Community Care Centers and their Resource Center are also always memorable. Seeing their staff work with these children, often with severe intellectual disabilities who may be neglected, their dedication and love for the children, is inspiring every time we visit. Hearing the Nelsons’ story is of course also very inspiring every time I hear it, yet they are so appreciative of our visits, which are just a very tiny service compared to all the work that they are doing with the children year round
- This year’s visit to the Pediatric Center of Excellence (PCOE) was particularly memorable because for the first time we got a complete tour of the facilities, which are very impressive! I did not know that they had a lab on site, as well as services for examination and treatment of sexual abuse among other things. We were able to have stations rotating through all aspects of the services they provide starting from intake and triage to medical consultations and early intervention clinics, which was fantastic to see. And for Christi to see some of the children that she saw last year for follow-up and see the progress they had made was also wonderful! Additionally we gave a presentation there, which was attended by teachers from a special school, and we now have a request to visit their school and screen their children next time!
- Beit Cure Hospital is of course always a great site as once again we get to see the full spectrum of their services from the children’s ward to the kitchen. However, this year what was even more exciting was that we saw in action the start of the “2 million by 2030” vision. This vision is to train primary ear care professionals in Zambia with the goal of being able to provide 2 million ear care consultations by 2030. We were able to meet the first 5 audio tech students in the program and interact with them. Seeing the dedication of these students – three of them who are ENT nurses now being trained in Audiology – was amazing! They have all three left their families far away to be here for a year in this program, with the goal of taking their training back to their local areas and be able to serve people there. What a great “ripple effect” that is as one of them is from Gambia, another from Cameroon and the third from northern Zambia
- Our visit to the Haven in Kalomo was special this year as we finally got to meet Meagan and hear her story of how she came to live in Zambia and has been at the Haven for 7 years. What an amazing and inspiring woman! Additionally, we now have the opportunity to further our programming as she welcomed us back to provide hearing screenings to all the children at the Haven next time we come!
- Mr. Malama at the Mthunzi Centre was just as inspiring this year as he was when we first met him last year! What made this year extra special was that we got to see a glimpse of the entertainment the boys at the Centre provide with their traditional dancing and percussion – what a special treat that was!
- Of course our visit to see Victoria Falls is always breathtaking. Third time to the Falls- no problem!! They are still amazing, beautiful and awe-inspiring! Also, I feel like I meet my Zambian family each year as I greet Mr. Chanter at Chanters Lodge, and greet the same guide to Vic Falls, Oliver, as we had last year!
- Our safari at Chobe National Park was made extra special this year by the number of baby elephants we saw up close! Seeing so many little ones running around was such a treat!
Despite all the wonderful memories I have an undercurrent of sadness this year on two counts:
- One is of course about our guide John at Chaminuka Game Park losing his wife. I did not ask for details, but I am left wondering what the cause was….. Would the outcome have been different had she had access to good medical care? What will become of the two young children? Will they be able to complete school? I hope and pray for their success…
- The second is about Robert who attended Special Hope Network’s Community Care Center at the Garden Compound. I met Robert in 2013, his head swollen due to hydrpcephalus, but amazingly a few days after we met him he had surgery for the condition at Beit Cure Hospital! Last year, although I knew there were challenges with his family, I met Robert again and he was a smiling little boy at the Compound who was able to greet me and say “hello”. This year, I did not get to see Robert, and heard that his family situation continues to worsen. He is left alone at home all day, and the situation is to the point that he may be moved to an orphanage. I pray for him to be well taken care of…..
And so ends another successful program in Zambia, with exciting opportunities for expanding our programming there but as we get to know more people and meet them again, we are also impacted more personally by the hardships they face and the feeling of helplessness at the inability to do more to assist them…..