OkaZHI: Okanagan-Zambia Health Initiative

Week One on the Children’s Ward

Mutozi chwani (good day) friends and family back in Canada!
This week on the Children’s Ward we ran into a few obstacles when trying to interact with the children. We found the language barrier to be very difficult to work around.  Communicating with sick children in the first place can be difficult but the fact that we could not speak Lozi, and the children could not speak English made it even more challenging for us to form connections with the kids on the ward. It was also obvious that many of the young children were afraid of us and we figured it was probably due to the fact that we look so different.  After the first day we recognized that the parents often spoke little to no English and finding a translator was a tough commodity to come by.  We had already hit a major barrier and had to brainstorm some ways we could make the children warm up to us and become more comfortable.  
It was so nice for us to be working along side the Zambian nursing students on the ward.  They were such great teachers to us and we had a great time exchanging knowledge and skills with them- they have VAST knowledge on pathophysiology and medications commonly seen here.  We also got a lot of help from them in the translating department when they had a bit of spare time.  The nurses on the ward were also fantastic teachers and very welcoming to us! So we definitely found the nurses and the other students to be a huge resource for us when trying to connect with the kids.
Our next strategy was to use the international language of play to connect with the little ones.  An act of kindness that touched both of our hearts happened our last day on the ward.  Our goal for the day was to bring activities and treats to the children to encourage play and also assess where they were at developmentally.  We distributed colouring pages and crayons to all the children, but soon realized that most of them had no idea what to do with them.  As we struggled to explain to all of the children and parents, one father we came across was quite good at English and understood what we were doing.  He then came around with us and explained to all the families that we wanted the children to colour.  It wasn’t long before we had most of the children on the ward colouring and having fun.  We felt that for the first time in our experience on the ward the language barrier had been lifted thanks to a helping hand.
So this sums up a bit of our experience on the Children’s ward this week.  Next week were off to the ART clinic (Lauren) and the women’s ward (Sarah).
Kakubona ape (see you later),

Lauren & Sarah

One Response to “Week One on the Children’s Ward”

  1. Unknown

    Dear Lauren and Sarah,

    You really convey the experience of being the other and knowing it – and overcoming it through shared experiences that speak to every child (and parent). You knew that play is central to every child’s development and you used that knowledge to relate to these kids and their families in a universal language. And I am so pleased that you have already dioscovered the value of working with your Zambian student peers. That is a good start to repsectful relationships and mutual learning for the common good – the well being of those in our care.

    Keep writing your stories. They are wonderful and enrich every day for whoever reads them – as I hope they are enriching your days in Zambia,

    Tricia

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