Day 3: Elephant Orphanage and Mthunzi Centre

Both happy and sad news at the Elephant Orphanage that FOUR students write about below (yes folks: get ready for a LONG post): we learned that two of the baby elephants we saw last year (Musolele and Zambezi) have been transferred to the Kafue Release Facility. This is the next step in the long process that may span more than 15 years until the elephants become independent in the forest – yay! But we also learned that little Suni that we had also met last year wearing a boot to help her walk after she had been partially paralyzed had been put to sleep because her leg got severely infected and could not be treated 😦 Several of us bought Suni elephant dolls that are made by local women and the proceeds help the women as well as the elephant orphanage…


Words cannot describe how inspirational Mr. Malama is – we are so fortunate that Alfred introduced him to us three years ago and we have had the opportunity to work with him and his children each year. Can’t post videos on this blog (or can’t figure out how) so see our facebook page at SLHS in Zambia for videos.

Read on…….

From Kelsey:

Day 3 and a successful day indeed! Today our group visited the Elephant Orphanage Project where we got to watch two baby elephants eat and interact with one another!

Here, abandoned elephants are taken in and nurtured until they are ready for release back into the wild. The action was a bit anticlimactic until little Nkala had a flare up of flatulence, which we caught on video thanks to Ellen. Nevertheless, it was quite the experience to learn the elephants’ eating schedules, how they got to the orphanage, and their deep attachment to the “mothers”/ elephant keepers.

The most eye opening fact came from the orphanage manager who explained to us that elephants could be extinct in less than ten years due to poachers. It’s incredibly sad to think that such a gentle animal that many people have grown up loving could possibly disappear from the earth so quickly. Poachers hunt these animals for their ivory tusks, skin, and even their meat. Many efforts have been made against poachers to stop this unnecessary catastrophe towards the elephants, but with little success the elephants remain in grave danger throughout Africa. The Elephant Orphanage Project is a safe haven for these animals to receive love and nurturing until ready to be returned to their natural habitat.

Next, we arrived at Mthuzi Center, and orphanage for young children to provide otoscopy, pure tone screenings and OAEs.


With welcoming spirits, we were graciously introduced to the students by the coordinator of the orphanage, Mr. Malama. The amount of mutual and genuine respect the children and Mr. Malama shared was amazing to witness. Knowing that these children don’t have immediate families but have a staff who love and care about them, specifically Mr. Malama, touched my heart. They are orphans, but they are one big family.


Mr. Malama – an inspiration to all of us!

We split up into five pairs, four with pure tone screens and one pair doing otoscopy in the courtyard between the classrooms. I was assigned to pure tones for the first half of the day with Amber…


and then had the opportunity to do otoscopy for the second half.

With very few complications, everything ran smoothly and the our team machine was flowing efficiently. Our average time screening a child was about one minute for all 85 children! In the words of Dr. Krishnan, “Go team!”

I was impressed at the level of maturity and respect they had for each other. There was one young child who didn’t speak English, but he had three other little boys holding his hand and explaining my instructions to him in Nyanja before I performed otoscopy on him. It was heart warming to see how these children interact with one another and have each others’ backs. They are so loved, not only by Mr. Malama and the staff, but by one another.

The highlight of my day was getting to play futbol with the kids when we were all finished! Because we completed the screenings earlier than expected, we had some spare time. Yes, hearing screenings are fun, but letting out some energy with these kids was a way to end this day perfectly. Everyone was running around on the dust field and having a good time. I think the kids enjoyed making us look like the less athletic/ experienced bunch on the field (i.e. when I got a ball square to the face). It was so fun to interact with them on a whole new level and to see them having a good time.

Day 3 was a huge success for our team! Today could not have gone any better 🙂

From Liz:

Today was another great day of exploring Zambia’s Elephant Orphanage and performing hearing screenings at Mthunzi Center. The elephant orphanage was such a cool experience, and we learned that this organization takes in elephants who have been abandoned, left behind, or disoriented and nourishes them for many years until they are able to eventually wean them from human contact and ensure their independence and survival back into nature where they belong. Elephants could be extinct in the next 10 years, and what this organization is doing is truly remarkable. They have 9 elephant keepers who rotate and take turns taking care of the elephants to give them emotional support and help them feel secure and less distraught. They cannot stay with one keeper for too long because they do not want the elephant to become too attached and not able to survive without them, so that is why the keepers have shifts and rotate throughout each day. They even sleep with the elephants and cover them with blankets at night to help them feel secure and well accompanied. It was important and surprising for me to learn that elephant hunting is illegal, but people still do it for the money they can make from ivory. Additionally, some have begun to eat elephant meat, and, in the United States, apparently some companies have even used elephant skin to make shoes!
We all stood on an overlook and viewed these baby elephants as they were fed milk by their keepers, ate leaves, and interacted with each other.

At the elephant orphanage, we even ran into the former Vice President of Zambia!! Although we could not remember his name, and he didn’t seem too thrilled, it was an exciting moment for us!
Next, we spent the day after lunch at Mthunzi Center and Orphanage. When we first got off the bus, friendly children and staff greeted us. They gave us an introduction and told us that some of these kids stay at the orphanage and receive schooling, counseling, and other services until they are old enough to find work on their own or until their family situation improves. Some other kids live at home and just come during the day, and then they return home at night. This was really awesome to hear that Mthunzi really does try their best to find a different family member for the child or eventually allow the child go back with their original family if the situation improves. They do not want to deprive them of that relationship. As the head of Mthunzi, Mr. Malama, told us about their mission, all the kids sat in complete silence. I was amazed at the respect and admiration they had for Mr. Malama, as he is probably the closest thing to a father figure they have ever had. He could easily laugh with them, yet he could also silence the room by just saying one word. Children in the United States often do not listen to the parental figures or authority the very first time they are asked to do something, and it was neat to see the mutual bond and respect that Mr. Malama had with each of the children.
It made me comfortable to be there, especially knowing that these children are very loved and accepted into Mthunzi as family. I had always associated the term “orphanage” with a sadness and heartbreak, but I was happy and at ease with the joy that these children radiated because of the great care provided to them.
As we performed the 85 hearing screenings, the kids were eager and so happy to be there! Most of them caught onto the task very well, and they loved the stickers that we gave them afterwards.


Our team was very efficient in getting all the kids screened, so we used some extra time at the end to play soccer with them! They have some mad skills, I must say! They put us to shame! I noticed that they all played in their bare feet, but this did not bother them at all. My version of dirty is definitely not the same as theirs!

Next, a group of boy scouts and their leader came up to us and taught us a chant where we jumped to a beat, and that was a very cool aspect of the culture that I had not yet witnessed.


This group also wanted pictures with us, and this made me wonder if they rarely see white people, if ever. Before we left, I heard a boy say to one student on our team, “You’ll miss me? Promise me!” He was very sweet and did not want to see us leave, and I can say that the feeling is mutual…we all did not want to leave either! Overall, it was another great day of learning, both culturally and clinically!

From Jena:

Today was a wonderful day! We started the day off with coffee (I had a frappe) and then went to Lilayi, an elephant orphanage. They are currently caring for two baby elephants. We saw them eat and play. It was interesting to hear and learn about the elephants and what this place is doing to help. Fun fact: baby elephants drink 2L of milk every three hours. Workers follow the elephants 24/7 until the elephants can be released back into the wild. They get released into the Kafue National Park around the age of four. It was sad to hear that poaching is a big problem. The workers said that 35,000 elephants are killed each year in southern Africa and in the next ten years they think elephants may be extinct.

While we were there, we saw Guy Scott, former Vice President and interim President. We were all excited because we watched a video about Zambia before coming and he was in it.
After Lilayi, we headed to Mthunzi Center, a children’s orphanage. Mthunzi was not what I expected. I thought it was going to be a sad place but the kids were so fun and happy to see us. When we arrived, we were introduced to the director, Mr. Malama, and he told us about the center. Their goal is to help children in difficult situations in any way they can. They also try to work out the situations to place the children back with family members. The director was so nice and we could tell how much he cared about the children and how much they respected him. Mr. Malama had a child say a prayer before we began. It was heartwarming seeing all the children praying together. The child was so thoughtful and prayed for people less fortunate than himself. This just goes to show that they are so appreciative for what they have and they know some people may not even have the opportunities they have.
When we started screening, Whitney and I began doing otoscopy. It was different to be doing this outside but it we worked with the space we had. It was a great feeling to look in the child’s ear and be able to see the cone of light. I was so excited!

After a little while, Whitney and I did pure tone screening. One little boy was so excited to listen for the beeps. As soon as he heard one, his hand jetted into the air. He was done really quick. He was a bit sad he could not keep listening for the beeps. The children kept us smiling. Most of the children were easy to screen and we ended up screening around 90 children in an hour and a half.

We ended the day with a beautiful sunset and a game of football (soccer). They had two soccer goals made out of tree branches. Lots of children played and they were so good. I had a blast playing with them! Soccer seems very popular here.

On the bus, we passed numerous children playing soccer and have seen it on TV multiple times. It was neat being able to play a game that is so popular here. After soccer, our feet were covered in dirt. Most of the children did not wear shoes so their feet were even dirtier. The dirt did not bother them. It made me appreciate and feel lucky to have a pair of shoes. As we were leaving, a scout troop asked if we wanted to join them doing a traditional nature chant. It was a great way to end a wonderful day. Tomorrow we get to spend more time with our UNZA buddies doing hearing screenings at a local school!

From Erin:

Today was just plain awesome! We started off the beautiful morning with a trip to an Elephant Orphanage. This special place takes in elephants that have either been separated from the herd or even elephants whose mother was killed by poachers. Without the orphanage, these elephants would not survive. Once they are rescued, they are bottle fed, constantly with a gate keeper who offers them emotional support, and even given blankets to sleep with to cope through the tough process of recovery. The Lilayi Elephant Nursery’s main goal is to release the elephants back into the wild! This is especially crucial because 35,000 elephants are killed every year in southern Africa alone. The manager at the site told us he wouldn’t be surprised if elephants are extinct within the next 7-8 years. He also told us how some companies in the U.S are using elephant skin to make shoes and other goods to be sold. This shocked me so much because I couldn’t believe that anyone would want to kill these majestic animals!

After heading back on the bus, and buying souvenirs of course, our next stop was to the Mthunzi Center. This is an orphanage for young boys who have nowhere else to go, or even for boys who have a tough family situation at home. The Center is led by Mr. Malama, who upon meeting him I could tell was such a special man. He greeted us with such a large smile and lit up when talking about the center and all they offer the children. The Mthunzi Center’s main goal is to help children in struggling situations become model citizens of Zambia. The boys have responsibilities, go to school, and of course manage to have lots of fun! Before starting our hearing screenings, Mr. Malama asked one of the boys to pray for all of us. I couldn’t help but to get choked up. The love and happiness I felt from those children touched me so much because they are rising above their circumstances. They may not have a lot of toys or personal possessions, but they have an abundance of faith, support, and hope. I saw many instances where the children didn’t hesitate to help out one another. While screening a young child who couldn’t speak English, 2 young boys were of course by his side to make sure he felt comfortable and at ease by translating for us. No one asked these boys to do this, they simply knew. That is exactly what the Mthunzi Center offers, a place for children to turn to when there is no one else to go. Clinically, this experience allowed me to practice my skills while communicating to someone who may not understand me and furthered my experience with using a pure tone audiometer. After the day was over we had screened 85 people!


We finished our visit up with a fun soccer game in the field behind the Center, which for me meant just standing because soccer is definitely not my biggest strength! Our team feels forever grateful for Mr. Malama and the young boys at the Mthunzi Center. We are so thankful that they allowed us to come screen them!



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