Monday, November 14, 2016

My first trip to Africa!

Dear Nhaka Friends,

I had the pleasure of meeting Patrick Makokoro, Founder of Nhaka, at a conference in the Washington D.C. area during the spring of 2015 and I was very impressed by the work Nhaka Foundation does for children.  Long story short, I decided to volunteer with the Nhaka Team to provide training this past winter. During the months of June and July (summer in the US) I had the amazing opportunity of being a part of the Nhaka Team that delivered training to approximately 120 teachers and Headmasters in Mashonaland East province of Zimbabwe. The Early Childhood Development (ECD) Teacher training program is one of the programs being implemented by Nhaka Foundation in the communities they are serving. Prior to my visit, between January and June 2016 Charity Bafana, Glenda Takavadii and I met monthly via Skype to plan the ECD teacher training.  They provided me as much information as they could about the children, teachers, schools and communities we would be serving.  The day finally arrived, June 25th, when I made the long flight from the Washington D.C. area to Harare, first trip to Africa!!

I spent my first week traveling with Nhaka Team to the schools where the trainings were to be conducted. By seeing the children, teachers and schools first hand I was able to tailor the training to their specific needs.  My second week was spent conducting the trainings with the team and the District Early Childhood Development (ECD) Trainer. Since the trainings were for experienced teachers we started with a review of the learning theory and developmentally appropriate practice for young children.  We then covered second language acquisition theory, how to serve children with special needs, and literacy and maths instructional strategies. Each  training day ended with time for teachers to create lesson plans to put what they had learned into action.

A survey was given to all participants at the end of each  training day. The feedback was very positive and most participants wanted additional training.  My final week in Zimbabwe was spent visiting the schools once again to observe the teachers in action with their newly acquired techniques.  I could not believe how fast my three weeks in Zimbabwe went.  The highlight of my trip was working with all of the fantastic teachers, meeting all of the beautiful children and the beautiful landscape of rural Zimbabwe.

Charity, Glenda and I have continued our meetings via Skype since my return to the U.S.  We are working plans for future Teacher Trainings.  Literally everyday since my visit I think of my experience in Zimbabwe and all of the wonderful people I met. I am proud and humble to be a part of the Nhaka team!!!!

Best wishes,

Dr Lea Ann Christenson

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Promoting well being of children in communities

Dear Friends,

Occupational therapy (OT) focuses on promoting and enabling people with physical, sensory, or cognitive limitations to be as independent as possible in all areas of their lives. O.T. helps children and adults with various needs to boost their cognitive, physical, sensory, motor skills, increase their self-esteem as well as helping them have a sense of accomplishment. Most people think occupational therapy is meant for adults and not for children, after all, children’s occupations are taken for granted.. Contrary to this belief, a child's main job is playing and learning therefore occupational therapists can evaluate children’s skills for playing, school performance, and daily activities then work with the children to design an intervention that promotes participation and engagement in these meaningful occupations. 

At Nhaka Foundation we have been fortunate to partner with the Zimbabwe Association of Occupational Therapists (ZAOT) for our Health Assessment Program and Parenting Meetings this term. We are excited to be working alongside some of the country’s best Occupational Therapists in addressing some of the developmental, physical, psychological, social, and environmental factors that can affect the functioning of pupils in different ways. This approach makes O.T. a vital part of health care for most children and children in the communities we are serving who might otherwise not have access to this type of interventions. Occupational therapists apply their specific knowledge to enable people to engage in activities of daily living that have personal meaning and value to them. They also consult with the person and the family or care givers through evaluation and treatment to promote the client’s capacity to participate in satisfying daily activities. The occupational therapist's goal is to provide the client with skills for the job of living, those necessary to function in the community or in the client's chosen environment.

The 27th of October was dedicated as a day to commemorate Occupational Therapy Profession in 2010 and since then it has become an important date on the O.T. calendar to promote and celebrate the profession internationally. This year, Nhaka Foundation in partnership with ZAOT joins the world to celebrate World Occupational Therapy Day by bringing Occupational Therapy to grassroots level at Munyawiri Primary School in Domboshava. The team has a number of events lined up including Individual Assessments and screening for disabilities of Early Childhood Development (ECD) pupils. A career guidance talk with pupils from Munyawiri Secondary School, and who better to talk to them than recent graduates of OT from the University of Zimbabwe. The program has Classroom and Teaching Strategies for teachers as well as child stimulation guide for parents. It is promising to be a day full of activities for the community at Munyawiri village.  

In our work with the OTs  it is amazing how they minimise their skills as only attending to activities of daily living, functionality and activity management yet they do so much more. It is one of those broad professions covering but not limited to the study of psychology, sociology, physiology, biological, disease processes, cognitive behavioral therapy, kinesiology and even, carpentry. 

So we are glad to partner with these professionals to ensure the promotion of children's optimal growth and development.

Charity Bafana
Associate Director
Nhaka Foundation