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International fieldwork tests students' skills

[Queen's in the World]
Queen's in the World

Several occupational therapy students are heading to Tanzania and India this summer to participate in international fieldwork that will push them out of their comfort zone and force them to think creatively on the job, according to Cate Preston.

“We are excited but nervous,” says Ms. Preston (OT’16), one of eight recipients of the Queen Elizabeth II (QEII) Diamond Jubilee Scholarships in International Community Based Rehabilitation for 2015-16. “As new grads, this is a chance to see what we can do while also building confidence in our skills and what we can offer communities.”

[QEII students]
Eight occupational therapy students received Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Scholarships in International Community Based Rehabilitation to complete international fieldwork this summer in Tanzania and India. The group includes (left to right) Cate Preston, Katie Fortuna, Allie Rogers, Steph Venedam, Josh Lee, Suzanne MacLeod, Kim Mikalson and Kara Dafoe. 

Ms. Preston and three other OT students will travel to Moshi, Tanzania. Over a three-month period, the students will complete both a clinical and a community development placement. They will complete their clinical placement at the Pamoja Tunaweza Women’s Health Centre.

At the health centre, the students will participate in a supervised clinical practice that will address the health needs of high-risk women in the Kilimanjaro region. Many of the women are affected by the impact of HIV/AIDS, and experience poverty and gender-based violence.  

For the community development portion, the students in Tanzania will work with current and former street youth through the Pamoja Tunaweza Boys and Girls Club (PTBGC). Their goal is to develop resources and programming that will help empower the youth and allow them to become mentors and leaders for future generations. They will work side-by-side with current youth leaders to create curriculum that they can use when teaching life skills, healthy living and business to at-risk youth who will begin classes at the centre on June 1.

Four other students will complete their clinical and community development placements at Amar Seva Sangam (ASSA), a rehabilitation and development centre in rural India. ASSA is a grassroots non-governmental organization that is dedicated to the rehabilitation, education and empowerment of people with disabilities. 

While at ASSA, the students will participate in supervised clinical practice and community development initiatives that support the centre’s integrated schools, early intervention programs, outpatient rehabilitation programs, vocational training program and village-based programs that support children and youth affected by disabilities.

International experiences allow our students to broaden their horizons and see what occupational therapy practice looks like in other countries. The Queen Elizabeth II Scholars can also think about what they can bring back to their Canadian occupational therapy practice.
— Susanne Murphy,  Queen’s Occupational Therapy Program fieldwork co-ordinator 

As she prepared to travel to Tanzania, Ms. Preston looked forward to the challenge of working in an unfamiliar culture. While the students had a general idea of what they would be doing in Tanzania, Ms. Preston stressed that they would reflect critically throughout their fieldwork to ensure they remained focused on the clients and the community.

“I expect we will have to be creative as we come up with ways to best serve the local population,” she says. “I want to listen to stakeholders in order to find out what they need and what will work best for them.”

QEII scholarships support young global leaders

The International Centre for the Advancement of Community-Based Rehabilitation (ICACBR) was one of two Queen’s projects to receive funding from the Canadian Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Scholarships program in 2015.

One aspect of the ICACBR project enables occupational therapy students to complete their community development and advanced clinical placements in low- and middle-income Commonwealth countries. Eight more OT students will be awarded Queen Elizabeth Scholars for the 2016-17 school year.

Susanne Murphy, lecturer and fieldwork co-ordinator for the Queen’s Occupational Therapy Program, says the scholarship program removes the financial barrier to an important opportunity for students.

“International experiences allow our students to broaden their horizons and see what occupational therapy practice looks like in other countries,” she says. “The Queen Elizabeth II Scholars can also think about what they can bring back to their Canadian occupational therapy practice.”

Ms. Murphy says the students will strive to ensure the long-term sustainability of their fieldwork.

“International fieldwork is not about jetting in, doing a few things and then leaving,” she says. “The students will seek to enable individuals living in those communities and equip them with the skills so that they can carry on the good work after the students return to Canada.”

More information about the Queen Elizabeth II Scholars program is available online. The scholars are sharing their experience and work through blogs and on social media using the hashtag #QEScholars.