Welcome our new CEO, Kavita Prasad

Welcome our new CEO, Kavita Prasad

June 2018 brings a big change at Sound Seekers, as we begin an exciting new chapter with a new CEO, Kavita Prasad, at the helm.

After three successful years, Emma Judge has stood down as CEO and Kavita Prasad, previously our Head of Programmes, begins her new role. Kavita has been spearheading our programmes at Sound Seekers since she joined us in January 2017, in which time we have seen our programmes go from strength to strength.

Kavita has over ten years’ experience in programme management and development and extensive technical expertise on disability inclusion, having previously worked with disability-focused organisations, including Handicap International (now Humanity and Inclusion) and Leonard Cheshire Disability.  Prior to joining Sound Seekers, Kavita was seconded by Handicap International to The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) to support the mainstreaming of disability in UNRWA programmes and services.  She has a Masters’ degree in Public Health from the University of Leeds and a Bachelors’ degree in Physiotherapy and has lived and worked in South Asia and the Middle East.

We look forward to Kavita leading Sound Seekers into a new and exciting phase of growth and development.

Read more about the Sound Seekers team here.

Official Launch of Children’s Hearing Clinic in Zambia

Official Launch of Children’s Hearing Clinic in Zambia

    

On the 27th October 2017, thanks to the hard work and dedication of our Volunteer Audiologist, Bhavisha Parmar, the Children’s Hearing Clinic in University Teaching Hospital (UTH) was officially opened by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Health, Dr Jabbin Mulwanda.

This is the first paediatric clinic of its kind in Zambia, which is fully equipped to assess the hearing of children at risk of hearing loss and provide the necessary hearing aid fittings, follow up and rehabilitation.

It was a day to remember for our Volunteer Audiologist Bhavisha as all her hard work and preparation over the past few months paid off, at the successful official launch:

“I didn’t quite realise what I was getting myself into when I proposed the idea of having a big opening ceremony of the Children’s Hearing Clinic and it took on a whole different life when the Ministry of Health suggested I link it with the launch of the first ever Ear, Nose and Throat Strategic Health Plan.” 

The launch was well attended with over 120 people including: was officially opened by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Health, Dr Jabbin Muluwanda.

The launch was a huge success, with 120 people attending including Sound Seekers CEO Emma Judge, the British High Commissioner to Zambia, CEO of Beit Cure Hospital, CBM Country Director, Senior Medical Superintendent of UTH, President of Zambia National Association of the Deaf, and representatives from the Ministry of Education.

During the launch, Bhavisha took to the podium and spoke of ‘The Need, The Now and Next for Audiology services in Zambia.  You can watch Bhavisha’s Speech here:

She was followed by Sound Seekers CEO, Emma Judge, who spoke about this great achievement

A speech was also conducted by the Permanent Secretary of Health services on how the Ministry of Health were committed to supporting the growth of audiology services in Zambia and the importance of the ENT strategic plan.  He spoke on behalf of the Minister of Health, whose speech included this paragraph which was followed by great applause:

“It has come at a great time when we are restructuring the health sector, and I am glad to inform this meeting…that positions for ENT have been established in all our provisional centres. But most importantly, for this gathering, is that audiology positions have also been included in the current structure” 

After the speeches, Bhavisha along with others in attendance were then led to the new Children’s Hearing clinic after Dr Muluwanda cut the ribbon that was placed around a bound copy of the ENT plan to officially mark its launch.

 You can watch the cutting of the ribbon of the Children’s Hearing Clinic here:

Bhavisha described this memorable moment and her excitement for the future of Zambian audiology and ENT services.

“I was relieved and excited for the future of Zambian audiology and ENT services. The opening ceremony of a clinic is very much just the beginning and commitment is needed at a government level to ensure the continual growth of services with adequate follow up and support for children with hearing loss as well as their families.”

We would like to thank everyone who supported and attended the launch, making it possible for children with hearing loss in Lusaka to gain access to much needed audiology services. Thank you.

You can read Bhavisha’s full blog post of the lead up to the Launch on her fantastic journey of her year in Zambia here.

Tales from Tanzania

Tales from Tanzania

Sara Barnes who’s volunteering for Sound Seekers in Tanzania shares her travel stories

As some of you know, I am working with the NGO, Sound Seekers, in Tanzania. Sound Seekers are dedicated to helping people with hearing loss in the developing world in partnership with local organizations. I met Lucy (CEO) and Emily (Programme Manager) at the Coalition for Global Hearing Health conference in Oxford last July. I was impressed by their commitment to facilitate relationships with professionals in the community and work toward long-term and ethical goals.

Currently, I am working at two places, Buguruni School for the Deaf and Amana hospital. Buguruni, which is run by the Tanzanian Society for the Deaf, has about 300 “deaf” students (students with varying degrees of hearing loss), some of which live at the school. The students communicate primarily by sign language, but the goal is to use total communication (signing and speech). Unfortunately, my small knowledge of American Sign Language is not useful, as sign language is different in every country. My primary goals at the school are to educate the teachers and staff about hearing loss and hearing aid use and update the students’ hearing tests and hearing aid information. I am working with a fantastic Tanzanian audiologist, Mr. Shibanda, who was working as a teacher at the school, then fund raised to put himself through audiology school in England. He also works with people from the community to help with ear issues, like impacted ear wax, and hearing tests. As far as I know, he is one of the few audiologists in Tanzania.

Amana Hospital is a regional hospital that serves the Ilala area of Dar es Salaam. Currently, I am working on training physicians that are interested in basic ear care in the hopes of eventually starting an ear and hearing clinic. The hospital is sorely lacking resources. In the whole hospital, which has several departments, there is not a single otoscope, the light and magnifier used to look into patients’ ears. The doctors have to refer to the Ear, Nose, and Throat Department at the National hospital (30 minutes to 2 hours away, depending on traffic) for simple problems such as “swimmer’s ear.”

The people I have been working with at Amana and Buguruni have been enthusiastic and passionate about ears, like me! However, things in Tanzania seem to operate more slowly and can be frustrating. For example, the electricity in the audiology office at Buguruni stopped working on October 21 after some routine maintenance was completed by the Indian Navy. The last week has been spent having various maintenance men inspect the problem and at this point, we are waiting on the power company. It is nearly impossible to complete work at the school since the audiology office is the only place quiet enough to perform hearing tests. On the bright side, I have had time to compile some educational material for the teachers about the importance of the students wearing hearing aids, which is a rarity at the school and arguably, a bigger problem.

At Amana, my main difficulty is getting all the doctors together at the same time. Each doctor has their own schedule. Even if they agree to meet at a certain time, their schedules can change, which has left me waiting at training by myself more than once. We are working on a new schedule to keep this from happening, but again, everything moves a little slower in Africa. Although I focused on the difficulties I am having, I want to stress that this is how things usually go in Tanzania. I did not expect to come into smooth sailing, and honestly, the setbacks, though infuriating, are part of the experience and a reflection of what the dedicated professionals who are from here also encounter. With my time, I am making small steps forward most days and expanding my knowledge as an audiologist, a trainer, and traveler.

Thank you to Sara for allowing us to use this post from her travel blog http://www.shortandtalltales.com/

Back in East Africa – land of the mouse kebab

Back in East Africa – land of the mouse kebab

Lucy (Sound Seekers CEO) tells us about her first trip to Malawi

My first time in Malawi. A huge welcome from the Bartletts at the ABC Hearing Clinic, who welcomed me into their family for the whole weekend, providing piles of pancakes and showing me round Lilongwe. The first time for seeing a roast mouse kebab (five little blackened corpses on a stick, which would make my cats feel like there was some justice in the world after all) and the second coldest I’ve been in Africa.  The first coldest was in the volcanoes in Rwanda, when I was woefully underpacked.  The same woeful underpacking had occurred this time, reducing me to wearing socks with sandals in a non-ironic way. And heating up a brick in the oven where I was staying, and taking it to bed with me.  Although I had a fairly comprehensive moan about it, it was a good reminder about how tough life can be for the people Sound Seekers are trying to help. I was only there for a week, freezing but healthy and full of beans – and then heading home to a bizarrely warm England. Going on outreach with ABC Hearing Clinic and Project Compassion was the fresh shock all over again of how poor people really are, and how early treatment could make people happy and pain-free so much sooner than the reality. I saw Peter Bartlett and his team carefully and delicately dig out huge plugs of rock-solid, dark brown earwax that had been keeping people in silence for years. It took an hour to pull out a red bead from deep inside an old woman’s ear, with so much wax grown round it that she’d been unnecessarily deaf for far too long.     I saw people queuing patiently for hours for ear infection treatment that would be sorted out in minutes back in prosperous England. And children so serious and hard-working that there was no chance of play audiometry, because they didn’t have any idea of an adult focusing on them and just having fun.

Clinic QueueI hope we can do a lot more in Malawi, and we have the exciting prospect of extending our work there. I would love to deepen the audiology service in Blantyre, building with Dr Wakisa Mulwafu, the only ENT doctor in the country. We want to be greater than the sum of our parts, collaborating with other NGOs. We’re gratefully accepting help from the ABC Hearing Clinic with supporting our sponsored audiological associate in Blantyre for a week a month (thanks, Rosanna!) and hope that we’re helping them by sending a HARK mobile hearing clinic to make more outreach possible.  The cold and the six hour wait in Addis Ababa airport are almost forgotten and forgiven when I remember the sun in Lilongwe, the poppadums bigger than my head in an Indian restaurant in Blantyre, and most of all seeing people hearing again after treatment. The brand-new Cadbury’s Dairy Milk flavour and the costumed dancers at the airport welcoming the inaugural direct flight from Kenya were pretty good too.