Audrey Vesperman shares about her Zambia Experience this past summer:
“Over the summer, I had the blessing and opportunity to travel to Zambia for my first offsite placement. The trip looked different than it has in the past because of COVID, but we still made the most of it and had lots of fun. There are so many things I could say about my time in Zambia, but so you aren’t stuck reading this all day, I will try and hit the highlights.
Throughout our six weeks, we went on a few extra trips to experience Zambia outside of the Namwianga mission. We were able to go on safari, ride elephants, pet cheetahs, walk with lions, visit Victoria Falls, interact with locals at the market, and so much more that allowed us to see the beauty of the land and the people in a fuller way. One Sunday, we visited and worshipped with a local church, Kasibi church of Christ. After the service, the church and the local village gathered for a meal, and we distributed mealy meal to the entire village. The joy of the village that day brought tears to my eyes.
In Namwianga, we were able to serve individuals at the local physio clinic through the hospital as well as children who live at the Haven. By American standards, this hospital would be outdated, understaffed, and under resourced. However, in the Namwianga area, the hospital is the best around. We were able to gain a greater understanding of the ways Zambian healthcare professionals are taking what they have and serving their communities in the best way they can.
The Haven, a transitional facility that aims to reunite children with their families, is staffed by several aunties who care for the children. This is where we spent most of our time and conducted most of our therapy during the trip. The Haven provides a home for children who either do not have a family, or their families cannot adequately care for them. When we were there, they only had 23 children, which is a major decrease from the last trip in 2019, where they had over 60 children. Each day we would walk the 30 minutes down the road to the Haven to build relationships and provide treatment. Each day looked both similar and different – we had a schedule we went by, but some days the aunties were showing us how to make nshima or teaching us songs in Tonga, and the schedule went out the window. We provided lots of language stimulation through song, gestures, storytelling, and play. We were taught how to perform infant massage and Beckmann stretches, which we incorporated into feeding treatment. We worked with babies to find ways to ease their frequent spit-ups, improve latches and lip closure as well as secretion management, increase oral stimulation, and encourage tongue-jaw disassociation. While I learned lots of clinical skills that I will carry with me throughout my career, the babies reminded me of something that will make me a better individual. I was reminded of the power of a person to grow and develop. I gave my client the tools she needed to create speech, and she took that and my modeling and shaping and ran with it. She did so much more than I could – watching her grow and develop before my eyes was incredible, encouraging, and such a gift. Her progress makes me excited to watch my future clients grow and thrive.
The Zambian people and culture are so beautiful, relational, and strong. They have so little, and yet their love for God, who is their strength and portion, is beyond anything I have seen. They reminded me of the gift it is to worship God, our Savior, Protector, and Provider. My kids showed me the power of growth and how just a little nudge from someone can spark incredible progress in development. The people showed me that great strength and joy can be found even coming from the darkest of circumstances. My worldview has been changed by this work, and I can only pray that you are able to experience something similar, whether overseas or right in your backyard.
Thank you for sharing, Audrey!