Read for Rose Turns Five: Sharing Wisdom’s Journey with Autism

By Annabel Mumba
Annabel Mumba is AYC’s Donor Relations Coordinator in Zambia. She is a Scholarship Fund recipient, high school graduate and current college student, and also one of our Success Stories.

Co-written by Pamela O’Brien, African Education Program’s Development Director, who is mentoring Annabel as she pursues a journalism degree.


Wilson and his mother, Thelma, are all smiles at Amos Youth Centre (AYC).

Acceptance, particularly regarding disabilities, often feels like an unreachable dream. The story of Wisdom, a young boy in our Read for Rose Special Education Program, and his mother, Thelma, brings to light a subject that is known all too well by our specially-abled students and their families: discrimination.

A Mother’s Determination

Thelma found herself facing the harsh reality of discrimination when her son, Wisdom, was diagnosed with autism at the tender age of four. This was a first for her too, because she had three healthy children before Wisdom. She struggled to shield him from the judgmental eyes of society and for a long time kept him hidden away at home, hoping to spare him from the hurtful whispers and stares.

But Thelma's zeal to provide the best for her son led her on a journey of strength and, overtime, a great support system was built. Her biggest concern was to find a suitable school that would accept and help her son. For a year she enrolled him at a local school that has a special education unit, but the teachers and facilities available were not specialized enough to handle a child with autism.

Hope is Found with AYC

The search for a suitable school seemed like a restless task until she learned about the Read for Rose Special Education Program at the Amos Youth Centre (AYC) Learning & Leadership Center in Kafue. Led by a dedicated teacher, Febby Choombe, who is also the Director of the Special Education and a Co-Director of the Center, and her assistant, Annie, the program welcomed Wisdom with open arms, refusing to see his condition as a barrier.

Febby and Annie embraced the challenge of accepting a student with autism wholeheartedly, creating a tailored routine that helps Wisdom thrive. With patience and perseverance, they guided him through his milestones, teaching him to recognize his name, his family, and even engage in brief conversations—a feat that once seemed impossible. One trait that people with autism struggle with is the ability to focus and build a routine for their activities of daily living. At Read for Rose, Wisdom is accomplishing just that! 

Wisdom is slowly beginning to live as normal as he possibly can under the guidance and care of Febby and Annie. He has made a number of friends at the program that he is fond of and he has gotten to know their names. Teachers account that being able to recognize the need for friendship and having an association with other students is a very big achievement for him and one that was thought to be impossible.

Wisdom is so special to us and we enjoy working with him. He is one of a few of students with autism that I have been able to work with. Each lesson and class with him is exciting and we are happy to see his progress so far. Reflecting on the time that we first welcomed him and until now, we are so very proud of him.
— Febby Choombe, Director of Special Education, Amos Youth Centre

Febby, AYC’s Director of Special Education (l) and her assistant, Annie, smile for the camera with Wisdom.

A Vision for the Future

As Wisdom flourishes under the Center’s care, so has Thelma's own aspirations. Through the Women’s Business Training, a part of AYC’s Entrepreneurship and Financial Literacy Program, she gained the skills and confidence to pursue her dreams. Armed with knowledge in customer care and money management, she has embarked on her own entrepreneurial journey, starting a small business selling roasted groundnuts. With each bag of roasted groundnuts that she sells, Thelma is not only providing for her family, but also fueling her passion for cooking. She is currently enrolled in a catering course and has embraced this opportunity to further her skills.

AYC is extremely proud of the growth of the Read for Rose Special Education Program. Now in its fifth year, today, 27 children with a diverse range of disabilities have individualized learning plans that include acquiring life-changing language, academic, and occupational skills. Their disabilities include visual impairments, hearing impairments, cerebral palsy, spina bifada, hydrocephalus, autism and epilepsy.

Febby and her team seek to transform the education landscape in Zambia for children and youth living with disabilities. Access to inclusive and quality education empowers individuals and fosters lasting social change.

A Mother’s Note

Reflecting on their journey, Thelma expresses her gratitude to AYC and the program that has transformed their lives.  

The help that my family and I have received from the program is overwhelming,” she shared. “I never knew that my son would be able to do the things that he does. He is able to call for help and can be left alone for a while. I am so grateful to the teachers at Read for Rose for accepting my son and not discriminating against him.
— Thelma, Wisdom's Mother

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