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Wesley College Graduate Students Travel to Philippines

Students Mendez and Rizzo help patients.

Wesley College Master’s of Occupational Therapy students, Stephanie Mendez and Ariana Rizzo took a week-long visit to the Philippines as part of a Level 1 Fieldwork experience during the week of December 10 17, 2017.

The group worked with the Projects Abroad organization, one of the largest volunteer abroad organizations in the world. Founded in 1992, they send 10,000 people abroad each year on a variety of service projects and internships overseas. Students received in-country support from Projects Abroad full-time, professional staff to ensure that the experience was safe, worthwhile and fun.

Living with a host family, the students were immersed in the culture and participated in community events as well as working with the locals to help members of the community. In the region they visited, occupational therapy does not exist so the students were tasked with providing a service that focuses on ability vs. disability while respecting the way their hosts deal with disabilities.

Both students had different clients facing extreme challenges including cerebral palsy and a stroke victim. By using what was available to treat, teach and adapt, the students found success in helping their clients improve their functioning ability.

“My focus during fieldwork was on a 60 year-old male who suffered a stroke two years ago,” said Mendez. “While completing my initial assessment, I learned that he really wanted to be able to write and feed himself again using his dominant hand. Since the stroke, his dominant arm had become weak and spastic and his hand was permanently in a clenched position. I knew I wasn’t able to resolve his spasticity in just one week so I decided to be creative and make him adaptive equipment to help him write and eat. We fashioned a writing utensil out of a tennis ball and a universal cuff out of a sock to help with feeding. Even though there was a language barrier, I knew how happy and grateful he was by the look on his face. This one small success made the whole trip worth it!”

“Students had to be creative, resourceful, client-centered, and use their clinical reasoning skills,” said Chair & Director of Graduate Programs in Occupational Therapy Dr. Varleisha Gibbs. “They did this by using what was available in the client’s environment including when they provided aquatic therapy in the ocean at a local beach.”

The Wesley College Department of Occupational Therapy offers an entry-level master’s in Occupational Therapy degree. The program aims to develop leaders and innovators in these areas of practice. The program has received Accreditation Status by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education of the American Occupational Therapy Association.