Jessica Cramer, CCC-SLP︱Reflections on Entering her Third Year with SHN!

Jessica Cramer, Special Hope Network’s Speech Language Pathologist, has been with SHN since 2018. Read her reflection on how the Lord led her to Zambia and how he sustains her each day as she faithfully serves our SHN community. This month, Jessica is entering her third year with Special Hope Network. We are grateful to have her on our team!

“I hope this update finds you and your family well. It’s a cold Sunday in Lusaka as it’s still winter here. I’m snuggled up in some blankets with a warm cup of tea as I write a short reflection on my past year at Special Hope Network.

As some of you may know, the story of how I ended up in Zambia in August 2018, started nearly a year earlier during my spring 2017 clinical internships. Prior to graduating with my master’s in Speech-Language Pathology, I sat in my Minneapolis room listening to David Platt’s sermon on how to use your singleness for the purpose and glory of the gospel. This morning as I made breakfast, I re-listened to that sermon and was reminded of the incredible calling that God has continued to place on my heart for Zambia. I’m grateful that He miraculously works to direct my steps! 

Back in 2017, after finishing the sermon (and by divine google search), I stumbled upon the Special Hope Network website. After connecting with the SHN team, I made the decision to move to Zambia. For that next year, I prepared and fundraised so that I could arrive to Zambia in 2018. 

As I reflect, I can’t imagine my life any differently! Living in Zambia has been filled with great adventures, growth, and unexpected challenges. God has been merciful and kind, constantly extending His hand and graciously providing for me as I work alongside my SHN team to serve our students with intellectual disabilities.

Looking back on my second year in Zambia, I’m astonished by how God is working through our ministry at Special Hope Network…

  • 50 individual students receive 30-120 minutes of speech therapy per week! Our SHN Therapy Center increased its hours to five days a week, and I had a full caseload of over 50 children each week. We also had a waiting list of students who were eager to begin therapy. During the COVID-19 pandemic, I have still been able to see a portion of my students online, via teletherapy. 
  • Four of my Therapy Center students graduated! We worked together to successfully remediate their communication disorders.
  • 307 children and their parents continue to be served at our 5 Community Care Centers (CCC)! At each CCC we provide training for parents on how to best care for, teach, and advocate for their children with intellectual disabilities. During the COVID-19 pandemic, and in partnership with other local organizations, we are distributing food packages and medications to our SHN families. We are also providing parents with educational resources to use at home. Home visits have also begun, which allow SHN to track the health and wellness of each child in our program while CCCs remain closed.
  • Our Resource Center (RC) programming was revamped and allowed us to provide education for 48 students! At the RC we conduct academic assessments, teacher trainings, and create individualized education programs for our students. Due to COVID-19, the RC was closed for a few months, but will reopen with modified programming in the next few weeks. 
  • 180 students were celebrated at our second annual Night to Shine! In February, we had Zambia’s second annual Night to Shine, which is a prom for individuals with disabilities sponsored by the Tim Tebow Foundation. In 2019, we had 75 guests registered, but this year 180 guests were registered. 720 guests, volunteers, and parents attended this year’s event and It was phenomenal! 
  • I am one of three people in the country who is ADOS certified to diagnose Autism Spectrum Disorder. Recently in the months of May and June, I completed a diagnostic training that allows me to diagnose Autism Spectrum Disorder at our clinic – a critical skill for my work in Zambia!
  • A new communication development tool is being developed! Beginning in January 2019, SHN partnered with the University of Northern Iowa’s Communication Sciences and Disorders graduate program (my alma mater) to create an assessment tool for use at our Community Care Centers (CCC). The “zDAT”, as we like to call it, will eventually be used to assess the communication development of our CCC students.

All in all, so much good has been scattered throughout this past year, and it wouldn’t have been possible without your help. Because of your financial contributions, prayers, and encouragement, God has been moving and working among the families we serve, and lives are being changed! Because of YOU, my friends and family, children with intellectual disabilities are gaining essential skills. During this season when we are unable to meet in person, we are witnessing the powerful impact of our team’s constant dedication to training children and families. Parents are recognizing their own ability to help teach their children, and many children are continuing to improve, even while at home!

Thank you so much for your support. It continues to be extremely meaningful to me! God has been working in incredible ways these past two years, and I’m continually astonished by His ability to provide what is needed at all times. 

As I begin my third year with SHN, I’d like to ask for your continued partnership. Due to COVID-19, I’m unable to travel home for my annual fundraising trip. I’m relying on virtual communications to raise support as I continue my ministry with Special Hope Network. Would you continue partnering with me this upcoming year? Would you consider maintaining or increasing your gift to $100 per month so that our children and families are supported? Please take time to consider how God would use you through prayer and/or financial giving. Your prayers and partnership are an integral part of God sustaining me while serving with Special Hope Network.

I would love to speak with you via Zoom if you have any questions or want more details on our ministry here! You can email me at jessica@specialhopenetwork.org for more info.

I look forward to speaking with you soon!

Grace and Peace,

Jessica Cramer