Day 9: Special Hope Network

Special Hope Network is a special organization indeed! I first met Diana, one of their Zambian staff members back in 2012 and she continues to be a smiling member of their team. Over the past few years I have interacted with other Zambian staff including Milika, Dennis, Goodson, Ben, Lois, and others whose names I may not remember, but whose work is inspiring, every time I meet them. Although we missed meeting the Nelsons (who founded SHN) this year, their story is incredible and today we met Lauren and Rachel, two more of their amazing staff. Here are two student reflections of our day.

From Katy at the Garden Compound Community Care Centre:

Today was a day filled with many emotions, some of which included joy, heartbreak, anger, and hope. We were at the Special Hope Network (SHN) which is the topic that I did my presentation on weeks before we had arrived in Zambia; therefore I was fairly familiar with it. I was also really looking forward to this day since we had arrived. A little background information about SHN is that it is a place for children with intellectual disabilities. It is a place where they require the parents to bring their child so that the parents can also learn ways to educate/stimulate their children at home outside from the 6 hours a week that they will spend at SHN, which is awesome because 6 hours a week is not enough time to have focus on a child with an intellectual disabilities alone. Even though the staff is aware that it can be exhausting especially with a child that has a disability SHN aims to provide these parents with ways to make it an easier and more fun journey.
Our team split up into two groups so that we would be able to go to each community center – which are located in the compounds or high density, high poverty areas.

Entrance to Garden Compound:

Our group arrived at the second community center and when we got there we got a little more information about the views on children with disabilities in Zambia. Milika, was discussing with us how parents many times will hide their child in the house if he/she is born with a disability because people will blame them for their child being that way especially the mothers. The people of Zambia believe that if you have a child with a disability, that means that you have done something to deserve it or you are cursed. Milika was also saying that on a bus if there is a child with a disability and their parent sitting people will not sit next to them because they do not want to get to close because they might get cursed too. These parents hide their children away because they are afraid of what their friends and other family members may think of them and in this process they are giving their child no chance to grow to their greatest potential. With these situations many times the husbands will abandon their wife and child because they do not want to deal with it. It then leaves the mothers alone with a child they do not know how to care for and many times with out any form of income. So for these people at SHN to step up and reach out to these parents and let them know that they did not cause their child to have their disability and that there are things you can do to improve it and allow your child to live their life that god gave them to the fullest is a miracle and a blessing all wrapped up in a bundle to smiles.

Milika and Dennis explaining the work of SHN to our team:

Today everyone kept saying thank you to us for being here but the real thank you is not to us for one day’s worth of work but to the individuals who have dedicated their lives to these children and to the community to try and erase the stigma that there is towards special needs children. There is a long road ahead to end this stigma but with programs like SHN there is hope and that is all many of us can ask for.


Team at Garden compound

Throughout the day I just kept thinking about how back home, in high school and college there are clubs that are designed just for the special needs children. People would always go up to the special needs kids and invite them to sit with them at lunch – they were some of the most well liked / popular kids at school! It is amazing to me how the mindset can be so completely opposite in another country. All day I kept thinking there must be more that we can do and how frustrating it is that we are only there for one day and don’t really get a chance to get out there and really help make this image change.
Through the week I have seen many differences between our two cultures but none of them have made me so frustrated. The only thing that makes it a little easier to sleep at night is to know that the stigma is improving and there are people like our buddies at UNZA in the field of special education that are there with the drive to make a difference in this area, and that there are people like Milika and Susan (just a few who I spoke with today) and all of the staff who are working for SHN right now and make a difference in these children’s lives everyday.
Aside from the emotional side we were able to screen around 30 kids, and got to participate in their outside playtime, and their song time. I really enjoyed my time dancing with one of the girls in the center of the circle! Made my whole day to see the kids smiling and laughing!

From Whitney at the Ng’ombe Compound Community Care Centre:

It’s hard to believe that today marks the 10th day of being in Zambia. It feels like we just got here. My room woke up at 6:30, showered, drank some coffee and got ready for our day at Special Hope Network. SHN is an organization that focuses on helping children with intellectual disabilities by helping teach their parents how to best care for them. It’s a beautiful mission! They have two centers in Lusaka where a parent, caretaker, or sibling brings the child with a disability every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for two hours. If the child and their parent make all the sessions and don’t miss more than 2 a month, they are rewarded with a food bag. We were told that this was a good incentive to make sure that parents were investing in their child and doing the best they can for them. The twelve of us split up and went to two different care centers. At the center I went to, there were only about 10 children who needed to be screened; we were expecting 45. There was one boy in particular who touched my heart. He was non-verbal, had very little control of his body, and a smile that was irresistible!! I couldn’t get enough of him. His mother was there and spoke very little English but she was able to tell me his name and that he was 9 years old. After he had been screened and it was time for them to go, as she picked him up to place him on her back, he reached his hands over to give me a hug. His mom smiled and laughed, “he doesn’t want to leave you”. I gave him a big hug goodbye and they were off. I had a wonderful 30 minutes with this boy, but I know this mom has several challenges having a son who is so involved. We come, play with the kids, hold them for a couple minutes and say our goodbyes. We are just seeing the surface level and what lies beneath are the struggles and complications that make up their reality (which is also where a lot of joy lies as well). We don’t see that, how could we in such a short time?
After we went to one of the care centers we all met up at their resource center. Here we screened a few more children and a some of the employees. Although we were warned it was going to be a crazy day, it was surprisingly laid back and not stressful at all. Once we had finished our screenings we ate lunch outside and were able to learn more about both Lauren and Rachel who work there. Rachel taught in Seattle before coming to Zambia and ended up on google looking for a place to go abroad; Special Hope appeared on the search engine and here she was. While she has been here she adopted a young boy who spends his time at the center with all the other children and has a disability as well. She plans to return to the US when the adoption is finalized so he can receive certain surgeries that are not available in Zambia. Lauren arrived in Zambia due to an organization called CLASP. She knew that the typical 10 days was too short and decided to spend a whole summer out here. That summer turned into a year. It was really wonderful to hear their stories and see a glimpse of why they decided to invest some of their lives with these children. Lunch concluded with the sound of children singing and clapping-it was outside play time! We all gathered into a circle and began singing and dancing. Each child was involved and so happy, their little smiles were enough to make me want to stay all day and learn more about each of them. Of course, with the time we have, that does not happen. We are in and out of these places so quickly and don’t have the time to get to know them all. It’s the people who move here and decide to make a new life in Zambia and all the Zambian staff who have invested their lives into helping these children that make the difference. Looking back at each place we have visited I have continued to realize just how amazing the people and their work truly is.


SHN staff and Team SLHS in Zambia 2016



Day 8: The Haven

Today we drove back from Livingstone to Lusaka, but this year we had an added activity along the way. Instead of visiting the Haven we can now call them another one of our special community partners as we stopped to screen the ~45 children there. We left Chanters Lodge feeling sad that we may not go back there (depending on what happens to the Lodge) and remembering Mr. Chanter.


Arriving at the Haven at about 9:30 we started screening and finished about 1:00 and were on our way for the rest of the drive back….here is a reflection on the day:

From Alli:

The Haven is an orphanage that watches after children anywhere from several weeks to 5 years old or however long it may take to find a safe place for the child. But this isn’t like any other orphanage because their mission is to temporarily care for the children until they can place them back in their own families. Usually, the children need to stay at the orphanage because the family doesn’t have the means to care for them at the time, their mother passed away or some situations were not safe for them. Meagan Hawley, who is from the United States, is the head person at The Haven who kept the place running. It was inspiring to see how she interacted with the children, the local people, and how much respect was given to her for all the work she is putting in there (google “The Haven” to follow her blog and search “Megan Hawley” on Instagram to keep up with happenings at The Haven! You can even buy a t-shirt to help buy a school bus for the children). There were also college students from Harding University there on a mission trip to work and stay with these children for five weeks. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to interact with these students much or hear their stories but it was awesome to see other students from the United States in Zambia trying to do work where it was needed. Although some of these children’s stories were heart breaking, it was remarkable to see they had a safe and happy place to be.


Meagan calming a baby for the screening

This was the first more hectic day our team has experienced. We were mostly screening babies under the age of three, so from experience, I know that we work on their schedule. I love all of our team that is here and we were able to overcome the chaos and get our job done. I was really proud of everyone, especially the undergraduate students on the trip who have less experience screening younger babies. The girls on this trip have made it truly special and I am so thankful for the friendships I have made through such a unique experience.


At The Haven, I was holding a child who was 8 months old waiting to be screened. He was crying, could not calm down and I tried everything in my power to quiet him down so we could screen him. I finally got Megan, the one in charge at The Haven, and asked what could be wrong with him and if there was anything I could do. She told me that she would take him because he just doesn’t take well a to white person other than herself, who is with him everyday. This was somewhat shocking to me since the majority of the children we have been screening have adjusted well to all of us. The Haven is about 5 hours from Lusaka and this isolation from the city may be the reason why they are not more exposed to white people versus the children we have been working with previously in Zambia’s capital city of Lusaka. This whole situation was a unique experience for me!

Up until today, I have loved the work we are doing, but haven’t really felt like I personally was making much of an impact here in Zambia. A special experience today changed that. I worked with a 30-year-old woman who had a hearing aid but it was not working properly for her. It was given to her without a full hearing evaluation 10 years ago and she hasn’t been able to hear well since. I screened her, although there was a known hearing loss and gave proper recommendations. I had to talk to her father because she did not understand English. When I was done counseling him about her situation, he asked me why I was here in Zambia. I discussed the mission of our group, to screen and identify children with hearing loss or children who need immediate medical attention, and push for them to get the proper help that they need. He shook my hand, hugged me and told me that we were doing God’s work and that God is with us always in what we do here in Zambia as well as in the future. He wouldn’t let me leave without knowing his full gratitude and appreciation for what we were doing here. This was a special moment that made me realize even though our work may be small in the grand scheme of things, we are here doing something and hopefully in the long run, this program can leave a larger impact on Zambia and the people here who need our help most.







What a day it was today!!! Although safari days are always fun, this year was extra special!!!! We started with the boat safari as usual in the morning and saw baby crocodiles..




…Cape buffalo


…lots and lots of impala…


…water monitor lizard…



thumb_DSCN3228_1024and more hippos!

thumb_DSCN3247_1024The onto our jeep safari (game drive) after a sumptuous buffet lunch at the lodge…

and we saw giraffes…




thumb_DSCN3363_1024…more elephants (and baby elephants)!!…


And for the grand finale – LIONS!!!



We ended the day with a wonderful dinner at Olga’s. Tomorrow we are back to work – driving back to Lusaka with a stop in Kalomo to screen the children at the Haven. But more on that tomorrow….


Day 6: Victoria Falls!!

An early start this morning (7:00am) to set off for Livingstone to see Victoria Falls. We reached Chanters Lodge at 2:15pm and were shown to our rooms. Anastasia came out to greet us but not Mr. Chanter who is also usually there (so I assumed he must be out). Unfortunately, Anastasia came into my room and gave me the sad news that Mr. Chanter passed away last Friday after a brief illness.

This is my fourth visit to Chanters Lodge and Mr. Chanter has always been there to welcome us. I will remember his gentle demeanor and warm welcome to Chanters Lodge each year, and miss seeing him.

This year our driver and tour guide for the Falls was Godfrey (although I told him to convey my regards to Oliver who took care of us last year and he did so immediately by calling Oliver!).


We were greeted at the entrance to the Falls by monkeys as usual; Godfrey told us they stay close to the road to try and steal maize from trucks that transport it along the road!

The falls were majestic and awe-inspiring as usual. The name Mosi-o-tunya (Smoke that thunders) is well-fitting indeed as the mist (smoke) from the falls can be seen from afar….

…and also heard roaring like thunder! (see video on our facebook page at )

We had the usual tour, seeing the falls bit by bit as we walked from the upper Zambezi….



towards the lower part where we got thoroughly soaked…


And saw a double rainbow!


Great feeling after getting soaked seeing Vic Falls!

After dinner at the Lodge we had an early night. Tomorrow we leave early (7:00am) for our day trip to Botswana to the Chobe National Park for our safari!!

Day 5: Beit Cure Hospital and more…

Today started at Beit Cure Hospital: the reason this whole program began, with the help of Alfred Mwamba and Chisomo Selemani back in 2012. Although neither were there today, my thanks are always with them because without their help, support and contacts, none of this would have happened.

thumb_DSCN2941_1024Students rotated through stations including Audiology…

thumb_DSCN2927_1024the kitchen…

thumb_DSCN2933_1024and the children’s ward and laundry where I was not there to take any pics.

We met old friends Patson, Precious, and Dr. Uta in Audiology /ENT and a new friend Mwasona…


And good old friends Kelvin, Elijah and Mbita (not pictured) in the kitchen…

In the evening we met up with our UNZA buddies for a pizza dinner…and they surprised us with beautiful gifts that they took out from their pockets! (How does a beautiful top fit in a pocket?!!!)

thumb_DSCN3005_1024Thank you all from the bottom of our hearts UNZA students!

Day 4: Vera Chiluba Primary School

Today was a day of “firsts” as well as a record-breaking day for the program: in one day we screened 402 children (a record!) at the Vera Chiluba Primary School partnering along with our UNZA buddies (a first!)! The team ran like a well-oiled machine and worked fantastically well together to get 204 children screened in the morning and 198 in the afternoon. Our students set up the equipment quickly, went wherever they were needed, helped with anything that was necessary and in general seemed to enjoy the day immensely. What a great cultural learning experience they had today working in a clinical setting with the UNZA students. For lack of better words, “Go team”!!!!

From Stacia:

It is so hard to believe that today is already THURSDAY! The week is going by too quick!


Team Zambia 2016 ready for another day!

Today we all went with our UNZA student buddies to a nearby primary school to do screenings on children in the first grade.


Mwila and Stacia

After training them on Tuesday at the university, all of the students I talked to were very excited for the hands on experience! When we arrived at the school it was a very different environment than we have had earlier in the week. There were many students there, I heard that the primary school consisted of around 900 children and about 200 in the first grade, which we were screening, so we were prepared for a busy day! I learned from some UNZA students that schools in Zambia are very different from those in the U.S. Here they have a morning session and an afternoon session at the primary school because of the overabundance of children in need of education, this way all of the children can have the opportunity to attend, if only for a short time. It is also very common for children who are much older to be in first grade. This is because due to rural living situations some children may not be able to travel the distance to school until they are much older. They are then most likely put into the first grade with much younger students because it is their first academic experience.
Upon our arrival, we split into groups, 5 pure tone stations, 1 OAE station (used when necessary), and 4 case history/visual inspection stations. I started helping at the case history stations first, and the UNZA students were great!


It was unbelievable how having students who spoke the native language of the children (Nyanja) was SO HELPFUL and made the process run so much smoother. When I was trying to collect names, it was difficult for me to hear the child because they are soft spoken, understand what name they were saying, know how to spell it, and then repeat the whole process again for the last name! I have a HUGE appreciation for the UNZA students and their ability to communicate with the children. They were great when interacting and asking questions. I helped out a lot at first, especially when the children repeatedly said that they had ear pain, further questions were then needed, “which ear?” “does your ear hurt now?” and “when does it hurt?” It was so helpful to have the buddies to translate those questions so the child could understand. After an extended period of time, I began to feel frustrated that almost every single child was answering “yes” to the questions “do you have ear pain?” and “have you had recent discharge from your ear?” I could not understand why the children acted this way, but found that I needed to remind myself that some of these children may actually have ear pain and that my only responsibility was to see that they got the best care available. In retrospect with the reflections of some members on the trip, the children’s responses may have attributed to a cultural trend in which children frequently respond “yes” to their elders, or others in respectful positions. What a learning experience, particularly about culture.
Next, I transferred inside of the building to run a pure tone station with two UNZA students.

It was a unique experience to be the teacher rather than the one learning about the machine now, especially as an undergraduate! I was very impressed with both of them and their abilities, especially since it was their first time screening. The part that stood out to me the most was the way that they interacted with the children. They made them feel comfortable by speaking in Nyanja, made sure the instructions were clear that the child needed to raise their hand when the tone was presented, did an example where the child needed to participate, and most importantly SMILED! They are going to be EXCELLENT special needs teachers when they graduate, their patience, love, and care are all so apparent!
We also had an afternoon of screening sessions, which also went very smoothly! We ended up screening 402 children today, due to the fact that several children who were not in first grade wandered into our screening line because they wanted to be part of the excitement. It warmed my heart! Tomorrow we will have our farewell dinner with our UNZA buddies, it has been such a pleasure to meet and talk with all of the students from the university and see them excel in their practical experience today!

From Whitney:

Today we went to a primary school with our UNZA buddies to screen every child in grade 1. This particular school housed grades 1 to 7 and by the end of the day we managed to screen about 400 children. Although screening that many children was wonderful, the best part was that we were able to do this with the students we previously met just 2 days prior.


Carol and Whitney

They were excited to have the opportunity to have some “hands on” learning, and quite honestly it was fun to sit back and watch them enjoying the experience. As I observed the several screenings that took place, I did notice one big difference between us and our interactions with the children. In the United States we give praise so easily to children and I see myself doing this too, especially when testing kids (the child raises their hand to our tone, we clap and give them a high-five). The UNZA students we were with did not do this. It was almost as if it was expected that the child would follow directions and, in fact, they did. The younger students respected the older students and their demeanor reflected this. At first, I wanted to correct them and explain that they should give them some type of positive reward but I realized it was most likely a cultural difference and my way of doing things was not better than theirs.


The other interesting observation I made during the day was the large amount of children who circled around and peered into the windows of the building we were in. They all wanted to talk to us and just say hello. I am still not used to that phenomenon and am not sure I ever will be. To me, we are not that different and although they may see certain advantages that we have, I know that they have some advantages we are missing out on too. With each day I try to remind myself to be fully present as I meet new people and experience new things. Tomorrow we are going to be at Beit Cure Hospital making rotations through different parts of the hospital-this will vary from being in the kitchen to observing the ear, nose and throat physician. I know we are all excited to be there and to have another day in Zambia!

We ended the day by signing certificates for all the participants at the professional development workshop that we presented at UNZA earlier this week…..


while the students watched some kids break dancing!!!!


Day 3 Addendum: Run-in w/the President!

Excitement at the Lilayi Elephant Orphanage when a student exclaimed “the President is here”!! I turned around looking for President Edgar Lungu – to find myself looking at a face that looked very familiar, but I could not place it. Aha – it was the past Vice President of Zambia who became acting President for three months when President Michael Sata died in office in October 2014: Guy …..(could not remember last name at the time), but we had seen him in a video. So of course I went up to him and said I was happy to meet him and had seen him in a video. Unfortunately since I could not remember his last name (Scott), and therefore did not greet him by name, he was not very friendly.

But thanks Kelsey for capturing these pics!!!!!

Previous Older Entries