By: Jessica Miller
Africa is my favorite continent. The air is warm and sweet, most of the people polite and hospitable. No matter how much traveling I’ve done, there are always exciting experiences at each new destination. My first impressions of Nigeria were the beauty of the landscape and the polite hospitality of the people.
The staff at Zeebah are warm and welcoming, and knew most of our names already. They were excited to hear about our lives and experience. They exude confidence, yet are receptive to learning from us. They know what questions to ask, and they want to increase their competence (which is already amazing).
The biggest surprise for me the first day at the center was how well the kids sat and waited during downtime. I asked one of the staff members if they would come to America to teach us their strategies. Most of the kids have such good attending skills to build on.
During our first couple of days, we observed staff with the kids during the day, and discussed general concepts after the kids left. We asked a lot of questions, and tried to understand any relevant cultural or environmental factors that might affect how treatment should look in Nigeria.
After spending a couple of days getting to know the staff and kids, we began collaborating. Some of our early focus included increasing communication during group activities such as art and circle. The staff members are so receptive to feedback, and they immediately implement suggestions. Sometimes we asked if our feedback was too much or coming too fast, and they always laughed and assured us they wanted to hear everything we had to say. One thing I learned very quickly was to never underestimate what the staff members already know. They are competent, and dedicated to these kids!
One of the best times of the day is after the kids leave, when the six members of our team and 5-10 of the Zeebah staff members sit on the floor in the play room and troubleshoot. We primarily try to encourage problem solving among them, because they have so many behavior analytic skills already. We also do plus/deltas during this time, where we all say a positive for the day and a thing we will try to change tomorrow. One of my favorite moments during this was after our first full day of collaboration, when one staff member said, “It’s overwhelming, the goodness of today.” I think we all felt the same way about that day, as well as the entire first half of our trip.