Balika had a tough start in life. The 12 year-old from Lusaka in Zambia, Southern Africa, was born with a hole in his heart, cataract in one eye and hearing problems. While operations at an early age improved his heart and restored some of his sight, Balika’s mother thought he would always struggle to hear, and might never be able to speak.
“I simply accepted that Balika had hearing problems and didn’t speak. I thought that’s life,” his mother Kalunga remembers.
He became a solitary little boy. “Balika never made any friends. The other children simply couldn’t understand him and he couldn’t understand them. That was a big barrier,” she says. Life at home was difficult too. “I had to shout to make him understand us,” Kalunga explains. “I was very concerned about Balika.”
Starting school brought advice that would change everything. “When Balika entered primary school, his teachers realised that he heard badly. Balika didn’t understand anything in school. His teachers told me to take him to [CBM-supported hospital] Beit CURE. I was hoping and praying that they could help him!”
And they did! Doctors at the CBM-supported Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) Department fitted Balika with hearing aids. “It took some time until the effect of the hearing aids showed,” Kalunga says. “But then his hearing ability improved and he finally started to speak. It was so exciting!”
“With them I hear well. Without them I don’t hear much. The other children don’t tease me because of my hearing aids. But they ask me a lot about them,” Balika tells us.
He’s now a happy, lively and successful boy who’s able to live up to his name which means “sunshine” in the African language Bemba. Balika’s found friends, learned 3 languages and has more than caught up in other subjects at school. “After Balika got hearing aids he became the best pupil in his class,” ENT specialist Patson Sakala recalls. “His mother brought his school certificate to the ENT Department at Beit CURE. She was so proud,” he says. Outside school Balika loves football, dancing, and music, especially the drums which he plays whenever he can.
There are still hospital check-ups 3 to 4 times a year. New digital hearing aids have been fitted and these have improved his hearing ability even more. However, Balika still isn’t talking much. The next step is to encourage him to speak even more. “He is an intelligent boy,” Kalunga says proudly. “When he was little he could even read lips – that’s not easy! At moment he often just points at things. But he can learn to speak now with his 1 and 5 year-old brothers!”