When I have a six day week I feel like the days blend together and I loose track of when one week ends and the other one starts. I am so excited to have a day off tomorrow to just relax and take a break from thinking critically all the time (although that seems to be difficult when you live at work with three other student OTs). In saying that, Cameron and Ashleigh are back on campus! It is nice to have them back and although they seemed to receive amazing health care at the hospital Cam was at, they are happy to be back at ASSA.
I am so happy thinking back on the week I just had. Therapy in the SCI went well overall, I’ve been able to get support via e-mail from an OT back home in Canada who has more experience in working with clients with SCI’s to help with suggestions while working with my more clinically challenging clients. The most rewarding day of the week was on Thursday when Steph and I ultimately ended up leading an almost full day workshop for the community rehab workers (CRWs) who work with children in their homes. The request for us to present was sprung on us on Monday where we were told we have an unlimited amount of time to present on a topic of our choice. We ended up primarily presenting on the findings of our analysis from the 20 children we have visited in the villages over the past few weeks. We mixed theory with practical applications of advice on how children should be seated/positioned in their home, along with ways of engaging children in play therapy to support their development. As I think I have mentioned previously, many of the children with cerebral palsy spend the majority of their day lying on the floor in a small and poorly lit room. The families often have little to no education on the prognosis of their child’s diagnosis, and the CRWs require the equivalence of a high school education for their job.
The experience was amazing because the CRWs were so receptive to the presentation and were engaged throughout the day long workshop. They were asking questions and requested that the information we shared be available in a hard copy for them to reference in the future. The head of VBR, Sankar, translated everything for us and was a huge part of making the presentation successful as he has a great ability of providing relevant metaphors to describe more theoretical concepts. He also praised us for our presentation and was so appreciative of the effort we put in to the day and valued the content we shared. The presentation, despite being stressful to complete last minute, was well worth the effort and now serves as a great preparation for the final resource that we will create and make available for all of the CRWs. The appreciation we received from everyone was such an amazing reward for our work. The workshop also seemed to strengthen the relationship we have with the CRWs as a whole, as we invited them to stop us on campus if they see us and to always feel free to ask questions and provide us feedback for the remainder of our placement. As a result of the strengthened relationship, we also altered the plans of our next few weeks in the villages as requested by the CRWs. We will now be visiting the homes of the children we already saw with their CRWs to observe the CRWs doing a normal session with the children. We will be available to answer questions from the CRWs or provide feedback and recommendations on the work they are doing.
It felt so good to be doing something that actually felt like it was useful for the organization here. In school we talk all about the importance of sustainability in community development programs and it was an aspect of having placement here that I was most worried about. How the heck am I supposed to be able to make something sustainable when I am only in the country for three months, with no prior understanding of culture and the needs of people associated with ASSA. Thankfully, I have been pleasantly surprised. This is not to say that everything we have been doing here is perfect and it will all be completely sustainable. We have our daily struggles with the concept and trying to just figure out what is truly needed here is a task in itself. But finally, the presentation seemed to bring our previous work in the villages together and make it all seem worth it, not only to us, but to the workers and ultimately the children who most need the support. With the guidance of Sankar, we are on the right track to supporting the program in a way that will be sustainable for the CRWs and the children with disabilities living in the community.
As a bonus on Thursday, three of the CRWs offered to take us into Tenkasi to purchase saree’s (traditional Indian dress), as we have been hoping to buy one before an upcoming function that is being held on campus. We knew in order to be successful we would need help, as it isn’t as simple as just picking an outfit from a department store. In fact, we really didn’t even have a clue what fabric and patterns would be appropriate for the function, so we needed their guidance for the whole process. Steph and I ended up each getting a saree, and they are currently at the tailoring unit on campus because we have to get the blouse (little shirt part) sewn to complete the outfit. Unfortunately when we got the saree’s on Wednesday Ashleigh wasn’t back from the hospital yet, so she wasn’t with us. Steph and I impressed ourselves by not only being able to find the saree shop again in the busy town, but also successfully picking out another saree with Ashleigh in the correct price range/style for the function with all the additional pieces that will complete the outfit all on our own!
I will be sure to write another post following the function tomorrow to fill you in on the events of the day. They have been asking us all week if we will perform a “traditional Canadian song and dance”, and we have shut the idea down, but I have a feeling the pressure will be on us tomorrow to perform!!