Volunteer Blog: Matt in Zambia
Matt is speaking to the students in the deaf unit
Matt talking to students in Chilengwa
Raising awareness of Sound Seekers work
While we have been waiting for the clinic to officially launch, one of the more enjoyable aspects of the work in Ndola has been to visit various places around town to raise awareness of the work Sound Seekers is doing at Arthur Davison Children’s Hospital (ADH).These visits have been at strategically targeted, at places which are most likely to refer children who may need help with their hearing. The visits have included schools, health centres and churches around Ndola.
Each has been a different experience but all have had a warm and generous welcome in common, and most are thankful for the work that we are doing here. The school visits have been fun, one recent visit was to Chilengwa Primary School (one of the only 3 primary schools in Ndola with a Deaf Unit to support children with hearing loss) a school of 3000 pupils on the outskirts of town. I arrived on my bike around lunchtime and this caused a bit of a scene among the pupils, who thought I was a very interesting guest, nevertheless I was greeted with friendliness and courtesy. I got a chance to visit the classroom block Sound Seekers helped to build in the deaf unit. I was very impressed with the standard of the facilities and of the teaching too. I saw grades 8,9 and 10 (15 to 17 year olds), who were being taught in classes of 10 (compared to classes of 60 for their hearing counterparts in the mainstream part of the school!). All the pupils I saw here were happy and confident young men and women, not to mention funny as well! There seemed to be a real camaraderie between the classmates here and it looked like there were some really nice friendships among them. I tried my best to find out about their experiences in very broken Zambian sign language and they told me about the lesson plan for the day, which included English, History and ICT. I left with a great feeling that they now have much better futures ahead of them.
Then came the time to address the pupils, I’ve done this a few times but I never get fully used to it. I spoke to around 200 pupils of secondary school age, telling them about the purpose of my visit to raise awareness for our new clinic at ADH and invited them to spread the word with their friends and family. There were lots of giggles and whispers as I was introduced by the Head teacher, Mr Kaonga, but everybody settled down and listened to what I had to say. This was confirmed at the end when the Head teacher picked people at random to repeat what I had just said!
We will be assessing the impact of these meetings by asking patients how they heard about our audiology clinic at ADH, so we can tell if this is a useful strategy for community awareness. It’s my hope that these events will allow us to reach people we otherwise wouldn’t have seen at our audiology clinic.
2 year old Isaac with his mother
An oto-acoustic emissions probe as well as a tympanometer
New staff member Emmanuel
Arthur Davison Children’s Hospital is open to patients!
”After several weeks where my job has felt like everything but an Audiologist we are finally ready to see the patients at the audiology clinic we are setting up at Arthur Davison’s Children Hospital in Ndola. Our main obstacle has always been getting equipment in a timely way. When I’ve discovered that a shipment has arrived into Zambia, this usually means all hands on deck, ringing various people to try and get the shipment cleared by customs. The clinic is now stocked with an audiometer; an oto-acoustic emissions probe as well as a tympanometer. This is enough to open the clinic while we wait for the last pieces of equipment to arrive. This will allow us to fit and validate hearing aids and get us well on the way to a fully functioning clinic.
There have been plenty of other jobs I have been busy with in the meantime. One has been service awareness days amongst various communities in Ndola. I have spoken at 2 churches, 2 community clinics and 3 schools with units for deaf children attached. Every community has been so welcoming and engaged with the service and message I brought. Plans are afoot to also spread the message further using announcement vehicles (complete with megaphones, of course!) as well as a radio broadcast. I think all this publicity is fantastic, and of course we want the clinic to be full. My concern is that we swamp the clinic with interest in its first weeks while we are just getting going, after all there are only 3 of us!
Which brings me nicely on to another piece of news. We have a new staff member, Emmanuel. He will be helping us run our new ear mould laboratory. He has studied biology and also has laboratory experience, so he is a really welcome addition to the team. The first task for Emmanuel will be to travel to University Teaching Hospital, Lusaka, to shadow Molly, who runs the ear mould lab down there. He will then re-join us and help make patients’ ear moulds onsite and help make our Ndola audiology service comprehensive.
Over the coming weeks there are plenty more things to do in order to improve our service. At the moment, the way appointments are booked is a little bit disjointed, with patients turning up without an appointment and our clinic time not being used to best effect. We need to establish how patients will be referred to see us, how booking appointments will work and also whether there will be other types of patient support such as speech therapy available to us. It’s an exciting time in Ndola, but there is still plenty of work to do!”
Matt outside new office for the next 6 months, in Ndola, Lusaka!
The brand new ear mould lab
Matt with Sinoya at Arthur Davison’s Children Hospital
First blog post!
“I arrived in Lusaka, Zambia at the beginning of February by way of Tanzania. I was practicing audiology in Tanzania, but the placement lacked support and structure. I was delighted to come to Zambia as I know I’ll get both from a Sound Seekers project!
I was picked up from Lusaka airport by my new colleague, Naomi, quite bleary eyed from a long day’s travels! After a rest, Tuesday brought the beginning of a jam-packed induction week that included visits to all of Sound Seekers operations in Lusaka, as well as an introduction to our Hearing Aid Refurbishment Project (HARP). Most importantly, I met the staff at both University Teaching Hospital (UTH) and Beit Cure hospitals. Everybody was so lovely, welcoming and enthused about our work. All my doubts faded away and I was left feeling excited about the challenge in Ndola, where I will be working at Arthur Davison Children’s Hospital (ADH).
I noticed two things during my first week in Ndola. Firstly, Zambia has a different feel to other parts of Africa I’ve visited. Gone are the motorbikes and tuk-tuks, instead cars and trucks rule the roads here. There are large supermarkets and malls as well. Lastly, the rain. My word did it rain in our first week. I’d fall asleep to the sound of a torrential downpour and wake up to the exact same sound, with no let up!
The second thing I noticed was that there is a lot of work to be done. Fortunately, some very dedicated people have been here before me and set the ball rolling on some brand new clinic rooms, including a new sound-proof booth, set within a small school for children with additional needs. The children are taught elsewhere now, allowing us to occupy some rooms. These rooms still need diagnostic equipment at the moment (it’s on the way!), but I’ve been able to make progress in other areas, having good meetings with staff here about service awareness, outreach and our new audiology staff.
I’m working with two people already, Aggie and Sinoya. Aggie picked me up from the airport and has really helped me get my bearings. Aggie has long supported Sound Seekers projects and is the go-to person for finding items on a rather eclectic shopping list (think head torch, flashing toys and plaster of Paris!). Sinoya is a nurse at the hospital and Sound Seekers will be sending him for training to Kenya for a Diploma in Audiology in October. For now he is training with me (lucky man). In reality though, he has been teaching me. Who I need to see to ask this question, where I need to go to sort this problem, Sinoya has been invaluable for me to get used to life at ADH.
I hope to blog again soon and show how the clinic is developing here. Perhaps at that point we will also have seen our first patient. Exciting times ahead!”