Kari Keating, Speech-Language Pathologist at Children’s Care in Sioux Falls, is in the African country of Zambia from July 28-August 10 to help kids with disabilities receive the treatment they need but don’t have the resources to get.
“I wanted to do something more than just work; I wanted to volunteer outside the community and help other kids with disabilities.” Kari said.
Kari will be traveling with the organization CLASP (Connective Link Among Special Needs Programs) International, along with other rehabilitation professionals including physicians, occupational and speech therapists, and NICU nurses.
In addition, Kari was asked to be the organization’s AAC (Alternative and Augmentative Communication) Coordinator, because the executive director was so impressed by the speech Kari gave on children with multiple disabilities. The position entails collaborating with other organizations who wish to donate some of their communication equipment to CLASP.
“I feel honored to accept the responsibility,” Kari said.
According to its website, the mission of CLASP is “to provide self-sustaining programming that allows each country to pass along training to future professionals working with special needs populations.”
A poverty-stricken country of 11 million people, Zambia is in desperate need of education and resources to assist children with special needs. Oftentimes residents view people with disabilities as a “curse” upon themselves or their families, and hide them from public view (or in worse cases, kill them). CLASP wants to eradicate this misconception and in the process, “provide a voice for those who cannot speak for themselves.”
In addition to rehabilitation professionals, Kari will also be working with a group of 22 graduate students who will be trained to provide speech therapy to local residents and create self-sustainability in the community. The students will work for a year in Zambia and then potentially move on to provide training in other African countries. The program will be the first of its kind in the entire continent.
When asked what she was most looking forward to, Kari said it was to learn how to be flexible with no materials. CLASP has limited communication devices at its disposal, so Kari will be required to think outside the box.
“My biggest question is, how do you help someone communicate when s/he doesn’t have speech and you don’t have any materials to help them?” She said.
For more information on CLASP, visit claspinternational.org.
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