Taking action: My journey to Pivot International

Marie-Kim McFetridge, McGill M.Sc.(OT) 2011, in Nicaragua, offering occupational therapy services to disabled children in need.

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Many of us who choose a career in the health professions do so because we want to make a positive impact on the lives of others.  I most certainly did, and in December 2012, I jumped at the chance to participate in a rehabilitation project that brought me to the little village of Santa Julia in Nicaragua to help Milton, a 5-year-old boy with cerebral palsy.  This project was the brainchild of then-student Simone Cavanaugh, now a McGill law graduate, who met Milton and his family while participating in a humanitarian project the previous year.  Profoundly touched by Milton’s situation, Simone returned home to Canada determined to help him obtain the necessary adaptive equipment to realize his full potential.

This project was for me, the beginning of a life-changing adventure.  In this first trip, we helped young Milton, who was housebound and required full time care provided by his mother.  Milton received a specially adapted wheelchair, as well as training on its use and proper body positioning.  You can imagine the impact we had on Milton’s quality of life, as well as his mother’s.  By allowing him to sit upright in a chair, Milton could better interact with his environment and work towards achieving more developmental milestones, such as improving his motor and communication skills.  Just as compelling, this allowed Milton and his mother to better integrate into the community, with more opportunities to learn, play and socialize with peers.

There is a great need for more awareness and access to rehabilitation services in rural Nicaragua.  In 2014, Simone and I co-founded Pivot International, a non-profit organization committed to improving the independence, mobility, and quality of life of physically disabled children in developing countries, starting with Nicaragua.  Working closely with local rehabilitation specialists, we discuss and plan the care needs of affected children and their families.  Over the years, we have been able to raise enough funds to provide equipment to assist many such families in Nicaragua.

As the Paramedical Director, I oversee volunteer recruitment and manage the healthcare professionals who travel on-site and develop care plans for the children.  We are all 100% volunteers at Pivot International, and we are growing and expanding our reach.  Our next trip to Nicaragua is scheduled for the first quarter of 2018, and we will have two rehabilitation teams to work with families in different regions, providing assistance to new children and follow-ups for those we have helped in the past.  We have also started an internship program at Pivot for two McGill Occupational Therapy students to join us in Nicaragua next year.

Every step of this adventure has been stimulating and rewarding for me.  Doing volunteer work not only brings joy and hope to others, it also brings a sense of purpose and meaning into our lives.

To learn more about Pivot International, visit pivotinternational.org and/or follow us on Facebook and Instagram.

Interested in volunteering?  Please contact: marie-kim.mcfetridge@mail.mcgill.ca

Marie-Kim McFetridge, M.Sc.OT

Prendre part: Mon parcours vers Pivot International

Marie-Kim McFetridge, McGill M.Sc (Erg.) 2011, offrant des services d’ergothérapie à des enfants atteints d’un handicap physique au Nicaragua.

La majorité d’entre nous qui choisissons une carrière dans le domaine de la santé espérons avoir un impact positif dans la vie des autres.  C’est toujours ce que j’ai souhaité et c’est ainsi qu’en décembre 2012 j’ai décidé de participer à un projet de réadaptation qui m’a conduit dans le petit village de Santa Julia au Nicaragua afin d’aider Milton un jeune garçon de 5 ans atteint de paralysie cérébrale.  Ce projet était l’initiative de l’étudiante Simone Cavanaugh, maintenant graduée en droit de l’Université McGill, qui avait rencontré Milton et sa famille alors qu’elle participait à un projet humanitaire l’année précédente.  Profondément touchée par Milton, Simone est revenue au Canada avec la ferme intention de lui fournir les outils nécessaires à la réalisation de son plein potentiel.

Ce projet a été pour moi le début d’une aventure qui a changé ma vie.  Lors de notre premier voyage, nous avons aidé le jeune Milton qui était presque constamment alité et requérait des soins continuels de sa mère, à lui fournir une chaise roulante adaptée à ses besoins, à leur montrer comment bien l’utiliser et à le positionner adéquatement dans son fauteuil.  Vous pouvez vous imaginer l’impact que nous avons eu sur la qualité de vie de Milton et de sa mère.  En lui permettant de s’assoir correctement, Milton peut dorénavant mieux interagir avec son entourage et travailler à l’amélioration de son développement moteur de même qu’à ses capacités de communication.  De plus, ces outils favorisent pour lui et sa mère une meilleure intégration dans la communauté facilitant ainsi les opportunités d’apprentissage, de socialisation de même que les possibilités de jouer avec d’autres jeunes de son entourage.

Il existe un réel besoin pour la sensibilisation et l’amélioration de l’accessibilité aux services de réadaptation dans les régions rurales du Nicaragua.  Et c’est pourquoi qu’en 2014 Simone et moi avons fondé Pivot International, un organisme à but non lucratif qui a pour objectif principal d’améliorer l’indépendance, la mobilité et la qualité de vie des enfants handicapés des pays en voie de développement, en débutant par le Nicaragua.  En œuvrant conjointement avec les spécialistes locaux en réadaptation, nous discutons des plans de soins des enfants et de leurs familles.  C’est ainsi qu’au cours des dernières années, et grâce à différentes levées de fonds, que nous avons été capables de recueillir les fonds pour assister plusieurs familles dans le besoin au Nicaragua.

Comme directrice paramédicale ma tâche consiste entre autres au recrutement et à la coordination des professionnels de la santé qui se rendent sur les différents sites et qui contribuent au développement des plans de soins pour les enfants handicapés.  Nous sommes tous bénévoles à 100% chez Pivot International et notre organisme est en voie d’expansion dans le but d’élargir nos horizons.  Notre prochain voyage au Nicaragua est prévu pour le début 2018. Nous aurons alors deux équipes d’ergothérapeutes qui travailleront avec les familles de différentes régions afin d’offrir l’assistance nécessaire aux nouveaux jeunes qui ont été sélectionnés par nos professionnels et assurer le suivi à ceux qui ont déjà reçu de l’aide dans le passé.  Nous avons aussi débuté un programme de stage chez Pivot International pour deux étudiantes en ergothérapie de l’Université McGill qui se joindront à nous l’hiver prochain.

Chaque étape de cette aventure s’est avérée stimulante et enrichissante pour moi.  Faire du bénévolat n’apporte pas seulement de la joie et de l’espoir pour les autres, il nous offre aussi une motivation et un but dans la vie.

Pour en savoir plus sur Pivot International, venez nous visiter en consultant pivotinternational.org et/ou suivez-nous sur Facebook et Instagram.

Vous souhaitez devenir volontaires pour notre organisme? N’hésitez pas à communiquer avec : marie-kim.mcfetridge@mail.mcgill.ca

Marie-Kim McFetridge, McGill M.Sc (Erg.)

 

Seizing the Opportunity: A Placement in India

Brittany Myhre (left) with her supervisor, Harsha Babani, and others after a training seminar in Amar Seva Sangam, in Tamil Nadu, India.

As part of the Master’s degree in Occupational Therapy, each student is required to complete 4 clinical placements to gain clinical experience, and put our classroom knowledge into practical application.  When the opportunity to apply for an international placement came up, I seized it and  was fortunate to be granted a chance to participate in an 8-week stage in Tamil Nadu, India.

The host organization, Amar Seva Sangam (ASSA) is located in a very rural portion of Southern India and is a non-profit organization, serving children in its early intervention school, a special school for children with learning, intellectual or physical disabilities, an in-patient spinal cord rehabilitation unit, vocational training, in addition to an integrated school system, where children from the community can also attend. Most of the services are offered free of charge, which allows the families living within the surrounding communities to attend to their children’s needs without concern to their already often precarious financial situations.

I was nervous about how I would adapt to a setting that is low-resourced by Canadian standards, and ensuring that I would be culturally humble and sensitive to the needs of those I was working with. Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in what “should” be, rather than what the situation or individual may desire or need. I was put to ease the first day after a conversation with my supervisor and my fellow students over differences in terminology; it was refreshing and challenging for me to address my own assumptions and I believe that helped set the trend for the rest of our stage.

I worked in the early intervention program with young children and traveled  into the surrounding rural villages to work with families who were unable to travel to the ASSA centre. I worked along side the Village-Based Rehabilitation Initiative workers (VBRI staff), a group of extremely intelligent and strong women, often who were special educators. These women visited the children each week and were invaluable to providing insights to the children’s condition and development, family dynamics and needs, and translation services. The families we visited were often living in extreme poverty and unable to afford the bus fare, and their children were sometimes too fragile to navigate public transit. Being confronted with an entirely different way of being was humbling, to say the least.

To ensure that our interventions were sustainable, a large point of reflection prior to, throughout and after my stage, ASSA and the head of VBRI engaged myself and my supervisor to train the VBRI staff to administer the Canadian Occupational Performance Measure (COPM), as a way of setting family goals and monitoring their child’s performance and their own satisfaction with the child’s progress.

It was inspiring to see how a measure we used in our first week of the program and endlessly throughout our classroom courses, could be applied in such a variety of contexts. Despite challenges of language and cultural practices, families were able to set goals for their children and it proved to be a success! Knowing that the COPM will be applied to ensure treatments are family focused and can be a self-sustaining initiative was so rewarding for us all.

My time in India was challenging, rewarding, heart-breaking and inspiring; everything and more than I could have imagined. I feel so honored to be a part of the projects, and realize that my privilege as a Western master’s student (among other privileges afforded to me) played a heavy role in my experience to go to India in the first place. I hope to honor the families, staff and those we met in passing by taking the lessons and growth I had during my time at ASSA and applying them to my future practice and life. I can’t wait to see what the future brings!

Brittany Myhre
Occupational Therapy Master’s Student

 

 

 

 

More than a Master’s Group Project in Haiti

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Evans Juste, Physiotherapist

As part of the School’s Global Health Initiative, physiotherapy Master’s student, Evans Juste recently had the opportunity to represent his Master’s Group Project in Haiti, which also included the unique opportunity to visit his parents’ home country. “We found that the future needs would be to advocate to stakeholders and increase available opportunities to those graduating from these programs that are realistic to meet the needs in a third world country” explains Evans.  On a personal level, “It was a true cultural experience for me that I really appreciated, to hear stories from my grandparents, to be welcomed by the people, and to see and experience the country and culture that I had only imagined when I was younger, this was an opportunity for which I am grateful for on both a personal and professional level.”

The project examined professional practice contexts of graduates from three rehabilitation technician programs in Haiti, and explored the graduates’ work profiles and perceptions regarding their readiness to work, difficulties encountered at work, and their vision for professional development. The group produced an informal observation report on the rehabilitation technician program and overall job satisfaction as well as two policy briefs for physiotherapy rehabilitation in patients affected by stroke and traumatic brain injury in this population.

This project was funded by the McBurney Advanced Training Program, through the McGill Institute for Health and Social Policy.

Evans Juste has graduated and is now working at Action Sport, Physio Rivière-des-Prairies!

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