Local speech pathologist Jill Hannebaum had the opportunity to travel to Lusaka, Zambia to help bridge the communication gap between children and their parents.
Hannebaum works at Baylor Our Children’s House in Waxahachie. The clinic works with children and teens from birth to 18 years of age. Toys are used as tools in physical therapy sessions to develop motor skills, balance and to improve muscle strength. Some of the other services that Children’s House offers include occupational therapy and speech language therapy.
“I went with seven speech pathologists and one businessman who did logistics for our team so we got everywhere safely. We went with a group called Clasp International. It is a nonprofit organization that provides care for people with special needs and social services,” Hannebaum said. “We left here May 25 and got there on May 27. We did a clinic every morning and afternoon. The age range on the children that we worked with was from 3 months to 9 years old.”
According to the organization’s website, Clasp works to improve the lives of children and adults with disabilities in developing countries. Some of the countries they work in include Zambia, Kenya, Uganda, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, India and Mexico.
During their time in Lusaka, Hannebaum and the team worked in outdoor clinics in different areas of the city. They worked with parents and showed them speech therapy techniques that could be used with their children at home to improve communication and feeding.
They also shared information to educate parents about different medical conditions that their children suffered from. Clinics were held in neighborhoods, at an orphanage and at a local university.
“In Africa there are a lot of myths why babies are born (with disabilities). They think that it is a curse. Some of the families often hide or kill their children with disabilities because they don’t know,” Hannebaum said. “Some lady told me that she though that her baby was born with a cleft palate because she had an insect inside her stomach when she was pregnant. There are all kind of myths, but it is a lack of education. So we just did a lot of education.”
Hannebaum said community outreach was also a big part of the trip. Traveling with the team was a local theatrical group that put on a performance about what disabilities are. While in Lusaka, Hannebaum and the group spent some time at a local teaching hospital sharing their knowledge with other medical professionals.
Hannebaum said the level of healthcare in Africa is drastically different because the levels of resources available are short in supply.
For example, the ratio of nurses to patients is about one nurse to 50 patients and the survival rate for infants in the neonatal intensive care unit is about 10 percent, Hannebaum said.
To help improve these conditions, Hannebaum will be sharing her knowledge with students who wish to become speech pathologists. Some of the techniques they will learn will help them treat adults who have suffered strokes, traumatic brain injuries or children with cognitive disabilities. Hannebaum will talk to students at the University of Zambia through a video conferencing program called Blackboard three hours each week starting in January 2014.
After spending almost two weeks in Zambia, Hannebaum returned to Texas on June 7. She said if given the opportunity to return and serve again she would be more then willing to go.
For more information about Clasp International go to its website at www.claspinternational.org.
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