Letter from Board President

A letter from CLASP's board president Amanda Beneke who traveled in December 2015 with Dr. Cindy Gill CLASP Academic Director and one of CLASP's professors Kari Comer to Zambia to watch the graduation ceremony of the first 18 speech therapists in Zambia, who graduated with a Masters in Education in Speech, Language, and Communication Disorders.

 

Dear Family and Friends,

I would like to take this time to give you an update on the programming I have been doing in Zambia with CLASP International. It is with great pride that I announce that 18 students finished their required coursework and officially graduated from the University of Zambia with a Master’s degree in Speech, Language, and Communication Disorders on December 7, 2015! I was thankful I could travel to Lusaka, Zambia to support our students on this monumental day. The country of Zambia now has 18 qualified individuals who are able to work with kids in educational settings who have speech and language disorders. It was great to be able to present each student with a certificate of completion for their practicum hours through CLASP International.

While we have worked so hard to get to this point, there is still work that needs to be done. The country still needs to create appropriate jobs for individuals who have a degree in Speech, Language, and Communication Disorders. Right now, many of our graduate students will continue to work as specialists in the special education system throughout Zambia. In addition, individuals are still needed who have degrees that will allow them to work in the medical field.  This would allow professionals to work in hospitals and clinics to treat individuals who have had a traumatic brain injury, stroke, or other disorder that impacts their ability to communicate. Professionals in the medical setting would also be able to work with individuals such as premature infants who have feeding disorders.

Due to financial reasons, CLASP International will not be able to continue programming in Zambia at this time. However, there are many influential people in Zambia who continue to work to develop the profession of Speech-Language Pathology. I was able to meet with many of these individuals in December when I traveled to Zambia. As a team, we were able to continue discussing appropriate directions for the future. I am so proud of the work that is continuing in Zambia!

While CLASP International will not be doing any more direct programming in Zambia, we are continuing to support our students (now colleagues!) stateside. We are offering a mentorship program so each recent graduate can connect with a certified Speech-Language Pathologist in the United States for support and advice as they begin their journey as trained professionals in their country. We are also facilitating an opportunity for a few of these students to come to the United States for a PhD program thanks to the hard work of our Academic Director, Dr. Cindy Gill-Sams. I will continue in my role as Board President to provide support wherever it is needed.

I would like to tell one wonderful story about a child we have been working with for many years now: Emmanuel. Emmanuel is a boy who is Deaf who attends the University Teaching Hospital Special School. When we met him, he drooled constantly and had no formal communication. I saw Emmanuel at church during my most recent visit. Emmanuel was not drooling at all and he was communicating with friends using fluent Zambian Sign Language. I felt so encouraged seeing the progress Emmanuel has made. It gave me HOPE for the work that will continue to be done in Zambia.

I would like to thank all of you for your love, prayers, and financial support over the years. I would never have been able to travel to Zambia five times without all of you. Because of you, I have been able to watch this program flourish…I have been able to see children find their voice…and for that I am so very grateful!

Love,
Amanda