Sophie shares her Paediatric Occupational Therapy experience in Uganda….

I arranged a 3-week placement experience in June following completion of my studies before starting work full time. This was through a charitable organisation called ‘Knowledge for Change’ who aim to provide better health facilities and standards of care in Uganda. I was placed at Kyaninga Child Development Centre (KCDC) in Fort Portal, Uganda which was set up by a British Physiotherapist and a British expat who shared a vision to develop a specialised service to support children with disabilities and their families to lead more independent and fulfilling lives.


At KCDC I worked closely alongside a multi-disciplinary team of professionals which consisted of occupational therapists, physiotherapists, speech and language therapists and special educational needs teachers. I worked mainly with children with cerebral palsy (CP) from a wide age group from 1 month to 20 years old. Each day was different but 70% of the work consisted of visiting children and their families in the community, who could not attend the clinic due to travel costs or difficulty transporting their child. Community visits consisted of outreach sessions at village health centres or home visits in some of the most rural settings.

Sophie Heywood Uganda report 3

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Occupational therapists consider all activities that an individual carries out in a day, as occupations that an individual wants to do, or needs to do, for example getting washed and dressed in the morning or buying and cooking food. They support individuals who are not able to do these occupations either through mental illness or physical disability by problem solving their barriers and producing adaptive strategies, to enable them to be as independent as possible. At KCDC, I would encourage children with CP to engage in play activities which helped to increase their fine motor skills and hand function to work towards their long-term goals of carrying out occupations as independently as possible, such as self-feeding and washing themselves.

For children with CP and severe learning difficulties I would carry out sensory stimulation and hand over hand facilitation to enable them to better orientate themselves to their body and their surrounding in order to work towards function. Occasionally, I would go out with another OT to assess and provide wheelchairs for a patient. This was a rewarding experience as you could see how beneficial it was for the family, particularly when the child was older, and they could no longer carry them. I would often complete joint assessments with the physiotherapist to help decrease tone and reduce risk of contractures worsening by supporting children to weight bear and increase strength. This would then help children to be placed in more optimal positions to carry out occupations.

Sophie Heywood Uganda report 5
There is still a stigma placed on children with disabilities as Ugandans traditionally believe this to be witchcraft or that a child is cursed. However, with increased exposure to services such as KCDC and training ‘expert parents’ to educate their communities this is improving. Although there was a language barrier at times I was fortunate that other members of staff could translate for me. The Ugandan people were very welcoming and appreciative of the help I could give.
During my evenings I would attend the local frisbee group to meet local people or I would go out for dinner with fellow volunteers from the Knowledge for Change house. At the weekends I was fortunate to explore the surrounding areas of Fort Portal and gain a better understanding of the culture and people of Uganda.
I have found this to be a thoroughly rewarding experience and I would like to thank Knowledge for Change and KCDC for providing the placement opportunity. Finally, I would like to send my warmest appreciation to The Eleanor Peel Trust for helping to make this trip possible.

Kahina is about to Graduate UoC….

we asked Kahina if she could share her volunteering journey before she graduates UoC and starts her next volunteering role in the labs at the National History Museum and London Zoo creating a cyroark database of biological specimens.

Kahina studied forensic and investigative science and whilst doing so volunteered with the UCSU (students’ union), Carlisle world shop (Fairtrade) and as a STEM ambassador.

What impact has volunteering had?

Volunteering in these various roles has made me a much more confident and outgoing person, it has also allowed me to share what I’m passionate about with like-minded people. Having autism I find new people and communication challenges so volunteering gave me the time and space to adapt and develop these coping mechanisms which I then went on to apply to my uni work and life. Even after I’ve finished uni and am moving back to London I have secured a volunteering role at the National History Museum which I wouldn’t have thought about putting myself forward for if I hadn’t got involved in volunteering previously.

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What made you get involved?

I had finished my first year at uni and whilst I was enjoying my course and had a summer job, I felt something was missing. Previously throughout college, I had various regular volunteering roles, one being coaching a pan-disability hockey club and another at a city farm, both of which provided a sense of purposefulness and community. So I looked on the UCSU’s (student unions) volunteering page and found the Carlisle world shop which when I went along to talk to the manager the role appealed to me and was a way I could contribute towards the Fairtrade cause. Kati (volunteering facilitator) was great at making suggestions and getting you involved in completely different things, for example, I’ve planted trees on a river bank and helped new students move into halls. Having this variety allows you to try new things, often ones you hadn’t even considered before.

Why volunteer?

Is an opportunity to meet a wide range of people, of different ages, from different countries and backgrounds who you often build friendships with as well as being a sense of community that you can turn to for support as with the world shop, where we also often organise a big group lunch to spend time together. Volunteering in the world shop allowed me to feel like I was helping a charity and doing some good without having to do so financially which can be difficult as a student. Also allows sharing what you love, in my case science with school children, to hopefully interest and inspire them as it’s something I would have found helpful at their age.

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What did you get out of it?

It greatly developed all my employability skills which left me less worried about the future now that I’ve finished uni. It also provided structure and time that I could spend outside of uni doing something completely different. In addition, it made me feel more integrated into Carlisle as I had a considerable number of local people I knew, making me feel more at home here for the last four years.

What do you think you gave back?

I think I have made more people aware of Fairtrade, especially within my student peers and hopefully giving my time has made a contribution to the lives of people working on the other side of the world. With the STEM ambassador my skills, expertise and experiences that I’ve gained throughout uni.

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Has anything helped you?

My manager at the world shop has been amazing in supporting me, giving me greater responsibility in the role as well as flexibility and has got me involved in various festivals and stalls which expanded my experiences. Finally, I would say being at uni is the perfect opportunity to try new things, volunteering being one of these as you often have the time and access to the resources from the UCSU to find something that you can have a go at trying.

If you are interesting in volunteering at the Carlisle World Shop please visit:

https://www.ucsu.me/volunteering-opportunities/fair-trade-shop-volunteer

For the full list of volunteering opportunities in UoC sites and surrounding areas please visit:

https://www.ucsu.me/volunteering-opportunities