Meet Laura Moore, a final year Occupational Therapy student who is giving up her final weeks of student life in order to cross the Atlantic and aid the rehabilitation of disabled children in Uganda. As part of the Occupational Therapy Degree, Laura and her course mate, Izzy Carpenter, are going out to the Dawn Centre, Uganda as part of their final elective practical placement. Occupational Therapy mainly involves working with individuals to work on individual goals that help them perform to the best they possibly can. This can include everyday activities to simple functions like eating and drinking. Occupational therapy is essentially the assessment and treatment of physical and psychiatric conditions using specific activity to prevent disability and promote independent function in all aspects of daily life.
The Dawn Centre provides support for children with a variety of physical and learning disabilities including cerebral palsy, down-syndrome and autism. The Centre is the only one of its kind in the whole of Uganda and forms part of ‘The Special Children’s Trust’, a charity organisation based in Kampala, Uganda, East Africa. The Dawn Centre presents social inclusion and aims to reduce stigma surrounding children with disabilities in Uganda and is located next door to a pre-school for children without disabilities. Before setting off on her adventure, Laura has raised money in order to: provide toys for the children, eg. blocks, puzzles and teddies, help the centre continue to run as it depends on charitable donations and volunteers, and take basic school equipment over including books, pens and art resources.
So, instead of drowning herself in those all-important Salt Dog ‘Rum-For-Ya-Moneys’ or killing herself with one last Quad Vod in Faculty, and far from dancing her nights away in Heebie Jeebies celebrating the forever end of those horrid weeks of cramming, Laura will be making a significant difference to someone’s life in Africa. There is no doubt at all that some of you will be reading this article and thinking, ‘Is she crazy?!’, and it is for this very reason that an interview with the lady herself had to take place!
1) Firstly, tell us a little about yourself! Where do you come from? What do you study? Where do you see yourself in 5 years’ time?
Well, I’m Laura Moore and I live in Surrey and of course, you now already know what I study! In five years’ time, I’m hoping that I’ll be working as an Occupational Therapist possibly in the third sector somewhere, which means working for charity or specifically children with learning disabilities.
2) Tell us a little about the Centre in which you are travelling to and setting up base at in Uganda.
It’s a neuro-developmental rehabilitation centre that is attached to a day centre and works to promote awareness of disability in Uganda. It works particularly hard alongside the families of the children as in Uganda disability is regarded as a curse or a burden. As a result of this, families are often completely excluded from their community therefore the Centre works to gain a high level of inclusion with the mainstream nursery that it is attached to. The Centre was set up in July 2008 and accommodates children from 6 months to 16 years, surviving and working on charitable donations and volunteers. The main reason I am going out to the Centre is so that I can utilise the skills I have gained whilst studying at the University of Liverpool. We are setting up a student booklet of which we hope will create and nourish further links between the Centre and Liverpool.
3) What made you choose to commit to such a role? Is it something that you see yourself doing as a lifelong career?
I always wanted to do something like this and didn’t want to go when I was eighteen and less skilled and more naïve; I don’t feel I had enough to offer them then. I feel that I now have both cultural experience to give and take and a want to travel and experience other cultures. A massive bonus of the trip is that we are based near to Lake Victoria and Ugandans are meant to be super friendly! I am also lucky enough to have some family friends that live out in Uganda and have grown up listening to positive things being said which has played a helpful role in my decision.
4) What do you hope to bring to future generations of budding health students?
I want to give them the inspiration to do something different with their final elective placement, it is elective after all! I also hope to help positively further the relationships that are being built between the University of Liverpool and the Dawn Centre.
5) What pearls of wisdom could you give to other students wanting to get involved in something similar later down the line?
Embrace the opportunity and don’t be worried about getting out there and doing it. I would say communication is particularly important and that to get as many links as possible will really help you in building professional relationships and also to talk to external students will be of massive help to you. I travelled out to Alicante for an OT conference which helped me to realise I could widen my placement opportunities and met many international students from across Europe.
6) What are your plans after graduation? Do you feel your time in Uganda will help you in your choices post University?
Immediately after graduation, I am heading across to Camp America to work with the Easter Seals International Charity which I am really looking forward to! Then, it’s the dreaded reality! I plan to find a job working in Occupational Therapy, hopefully in paediatrics. I feel my time in Uganda will both widen my horizons and will have helped to open my eyes to culture. I hope to use this alongside my experience from my degree so that I can develop skills in further placements with children with disabilities. I feel in particular I will be able to utilise problem solving skills even when presented with limited resources as a result of Uganda and having experienced a wide range of differing health placements.
Keep up the good work Laura and we hope to hear more from you on your experience when you return!