Thursday, April 19, 2012

You too can help send Brenda Shaw to Zambia!

My dear readers, we are going to take a break from the antique series. My close friend, Brenda Shaw, is trying to raise some funds to do some very important work in Zambia this summer.  Below is my interview with her.  Please take a moment to learn about Brenda and why she desires to go to Zambia.

Brenda, please tell my readers a little bit about yourself.
-Welp {Editor’s note – I had to leave the “welp” in because it is so Brenda}, I am ending the second semester of my Master’s in Speech Language Pathology. I work right now at a small company shredding papers, scanning, and filing. I also do some babysitting on the side. I am currently working with adults who have had strokes and other sorts of brain injuries. In the past, though, I have worked with children with moderate to severe autism in their homes and at school working on their communication since most did not speak at all.

What attracted you to speech pathology?
-I am such a talker. I might even talk to walls. However, when I saw how not being able to speak affects a person, especially when they have the intent and the intelligence to do so, it just broke my heart. Many of my kids with autism have such great personalities - you can just see it shining in their eyes; I know they would have so much to say if they could get it out. And that's what drew me to be a Speech Therapist; I knew I had the patience and personality that I could help draw them out to reach their communication goals.

You will be going to Zambia with a group called CLASP.  What is CLASP and where can my readers find more information?
- CLASP stands for “Communicative Link for Special Needs Program". CLASP is a non-profit organization that promotes self-sustainable special needs programs for children and adults in Zambia where their current social norms have taught them to believe that special needs individuals are curses to be killed or abandoned. Because of the social outlook on special needs, things like hydrocephaly and cleft palate that can be treated with medical treatments are ignored because the parents do not want to bring shame into their house. For more info you can look at . There are some video clips on the website that will give you an idea of the poverty level in Zambia. Our hope is to be able to leave Zambia with clinicians and education that they are able to sustain the program themselves so that they feel the ownership of it.

Please tell us about what you will be doing with CLASP in Zambia this summer.
-So, in Zambia I will be doing a bunch of things. CLASP has been working with the University of Zambia to start a graduate program for speech language pathologists (the first on the continent of Africa) and this summer will be their first semester. There will be twenty Zambian graduate students and six American graduate students. Together we are going to have a hearing screening/hearing aid camp called Ears to Hear, as well as a craniofacial camp for kids with cleft lip and palate, and facial abnormalities. We will have community outreach groups passing out information about special needs. We have a group of people going to a local NICU as well as a lecture series for health professionals. My supervisors are going to be speech therapists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, audiologists, and NICU nurses, so this is definitely a great learning experience. The group I am working with is the Autism Group. We will be screening children for Autism, as well as showing parents how to interact with their children with toys, because in Zambia children with Autism are often locked in cages.  The Autism team will be making communication boards for each child to take home if they need it. These boards will allow the children and parents to communicate with pictures and words in addition to speaking. The boards will also include a schedule and a list of basic wants and needs.  In our sessions we will show the parents how to use it so that they can use it at home as well as giving them information resources if they have questions or concerns.

(Cool fact: CLASP currently holds a patent for a solar charged hearing aid because while it’s awesome to have a hearing aid, they take obscure batteries that traditionally only last a week!)

When will you be going?
- I will be leaving on July 28th and will return on August 10th. Both ways we'll have layovers in London because the flight is so long! I believe Zambia is 7 hours ahead of us in Texas.

Going to Zambia must be expensive for a student.  I know you have been doing some fund raising; how much more do you need?
- You're right. I have to raise a little over $700. But that does not include my $50 visa when I get in Zambia. It also does not include the groceries, internet time, or any other purchases I'll make while I am there. There's also optional recreation we can do on down time like a bike tour while we have an eight hour layover in London. So yeah- there's definitely a lot of money that's behind the scenes. Thankfully I have been able to fund the passport and TB tests and my parents have paid for the five vaccinations I had to get. :(

If my readers would like to donate to help you go to Zambia, where can they go to do so?
-If your readers want to help me out they can go to this website to help.  Their assistance would be very much appreciated!

Is there anything else you’d like to tell my readers?
- I guess the biggest question I get is "Aren't you scared to go?" With people like Joseph Kony in the media I can definitely understand why people would wonder this. However, we'll be staying in the capital city and we will always be in groups. Truthfully though, I am perhaps a little bit nervous. At the same time, when I hear stories about people who don't provide care for their children, not because they don't want to, but because they don't even know it exists, I can feel my chest puff up. I know that no matter what, because I have the capability and background to do this, I can do this. I feel it is my responsibility and calling- I am just the steward of my knowledge.

WOW Brenda!  Thank you so much for taking time out of your busy grad student schedule to tell my readers more about you and your humanitarian trip to Zambia.  I hope you will stop back by Random Thoughts and share your trip with my readers when you return!

Dearest reader, I have known Brenda for over two years and she is one of the most caring and talented people I know.  She has an amazing work ethic (I know - I used to be her boss) and has the patience of a saint.  If you can, please donate at the link above.  I would greatly appreciate it and so will many families in Zambia.

Until Tomorrow - Melissa


  1. An awesome interview with awesome responses! Brenda sounds like an awesome (and brave) person.

  2. Sarah - Brenda is an awesome person and I hope she is able to raise the funds she needs to go help these children in Zambia. It is really sad how these children are seen. It will be people like Brenda that will help bring change.