In this week’s Stephanie’s Heroes, three University of Virginia undergrads are going the distance to improve education for children with learning disabilities. They plan to travel to Zambia to help new teachers and implement new lesson plans that could make a big difference for students.
Lauren Baetsen, Emily Nemec and Amanda Halacy will soon be leaving Grounds at UVa. and heading thousands of miles away to go to the Special Hope Network in Lusaka, Zambia.
The network works to help children with learning disabilities. It focuses on academics, health and educating parents and caregivers about how to care for those children.
“We really felt called to go over and help them with the best ability that we can because the work that they do is absolutely incredible with what they’re doing with the kids. It’s changing their lives and if we can have some impact on that, it would be amazing.” said Lauren Baetsen, UVa student.
Often times children with learning disabilities in Zambia don’t have access to education and don’t attend school for various reasons. If they do, the curriculum may not be geared towards children with those challenges.
“They don’t want to be sitting at home. They don’t want to stay at home with their parents. They want to have an education so they can feel like they’re giving back to society and we want to be able to give them that ability because that’s really the first stepping stone for them,” said Baetsen.
That’s why these UVa. students have been meeting for more than a year. They’ve been doing research and coming up with books and ideas to help young Zambian students who attend this school.
“Right now we’re just doing a lot of background research really focusing on culture and understanding what’s going on there. We really want to make sure that we’re well-versed in what the culture is over there and what the individuals working in the center have experienced throughout their lives,” said Emily Nemec, UVa. student.
During the four week trip, the young ladies will be working closely with new teachers to help create individualized learning plans for each student.
“A lot of the kids have had different amounts of exposure to the classroom, time that they’re parents are able to work with them. So, each kid really needs that individualized education to be able to reach those goals,” said Nemec.
Even though the group is traveling halfway around the world to make a difference, they don’t call themselves heroes.
“I don’t necessarily think that our team should be classified as heroes. We identified a need. We have the ability to fulfill the need hopefully. We have the ability and we’re just doing what should be done,” said Amanda Halacy, UVa. student.
The group will leave to head to Zambia on June 18th. This trip is part of a grant they recently won.
The leadership of Special Hope are all former Charlottesville residents. Most of the financial support for the organization comes from the Charlottesville community.