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Volunteers make a difference in Vanuatu

Published 20th September, 2016
In July Therapy Focus supported Physiotherapists Emily Brock and Nicky Scott, Occupational Therapist Caitlin Williams and Speech Pathologist Caitlin O’Meara to volunteer in Vanuatu through an organisation called Joint Therapy Outreach (JTO).

In partnership with Perth-based volunteer organisation, Wheelchairs for Kids, JTO coordinated a team of health professionals to travel to Vanuatu with wheelchairs and other mobility equipment for people living in the remote village communities of Malekula and Ambae islands. The team assessed and treated people in the hospitals in Port Vila, Malekula and Santo, who had conditions such as club foot, Hydrocephalus, Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Down syndrome and other birth defects. They also worked closely with adults who had suffered strokes and other degenerative conditions.

Speech Pathologist Caitlin O’Meara said there were many memorable moments made during their two week stint.

“During the first week working on Malekula Island we met a 6-year-old boy named Peter. Peter had bilateral club feet, which restricted his ability to walk, attend school and participate in village life. We were able to provide Peter with a customised wheelchair that allowed him to participate in village life,” Caitlin said.

“The following week we were on Ambae Island and met 17-year-old Jonathan. Jonathan has undiagnosed Autism and was also completely blind. His family did not understand his disability and did not know how to support him within the community. Soon after meeting Jonathan we learnt he had never left his hut. We discussed with his family how they could support Jonathan to participate in the community and provided some sensory strategies to help with regulation.”

Caitlin said the volunteering opportunity was a profound and validating experience for her and her fellow therapists.

“It was an incredible trip and we are so grateful that we were able to be a part of it. This opportunity reinforced how important the work we do at Therapy Focus is in order to maximise an individual’s quality of life,” Caitlin said.

Vanuatu

Pictured:  Therapy Focus staff with the rest of the 2016 JTO team.

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