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Students Provide Therapy in Ugandan Orphanage

Image associated with the Students Provide Therapy in Ugandan Orphanage news item

Author: Kenneth Mullinax

Release Date: Jul 25, 2018

A group of Alabama State University Occupational Therapy students traveled to Uganda to help orphaned children.

It’s a “bright star” for Alabama State University’s occupational therapy (O.T.) students to be actively involved in giving treatment to children in Uganda’s “Home of Hope” orphanage, says Dr. Susan Denham, chair of the University’s occupational therapy program.

"Making a difference in the lives of the infirm and destitute is among what ASU teaches its student-scholars to do in life, and our Ugandan O.T. team of faculty and students does that and more," Denham said.

Dr. Jewell Dickson, professor of O.T. at ASU, and organizer of ASU’s Ugandan outreach program, took four gifted master’s-level O.T. students from Alabama State (Kaitlyn Guillory, Broghan Freeland, Lakeyn Edwards and Morgan Todd) to Jinja, Uganda in West Africa at their own expense to administer hands-on occupational therapy treatment to more than 60 children housed in the “Home of Hope” facility. The trip was July 9 – 19.
Jinja is a town in southern Uganda, on the shore of Lake Victoria, which is the source of the Nile River. The African orphanage located there doesn’t offer much cutting-edge equipment and facilities that is common in O.T. clinics in America, which is why ASU has helped the facility by sending students there for the past four years under the leadership of Dickson. 
“All of the children in the orphanage suffer from some type of disability that benefits from occupational therapy that our ASU students help administer through group clinics and individual therapy in under resourced and underdeveloped environments,” Dickson said.

Many of the orphans suffer from such maladies as cerebral palsy, sickle cell anemia, autism and other developmental illnesses, which benefit from the occupational therapy that the students administer under Dickson's tutelage. Dickson said she first learned of the special needs of the kids in Uganda from ASU’s partner in the project “Our Hope International,” a nonprofit based in Birmingham, which was founded by Jenny Agricola, an acclaimed O.T. professional.

“Although we don’t have the most modern of equipment at our disposal in Uganda to help these kids, that’s OK because it allows our university's students to improvise, to think outside of the box, to work with what they have, which makes a difference in the treatment of these forgotten children. We also learn a great deal of how to use things in the 'environment' from the Ugandan occupational therapists,” Dickson said.

Dickson said ASU’s students were taught to improvise by using their bodies as wedges, chairs, bolsters and whatever else was needed to help their patients with therapy.

Academic prowess and in-the-field experience is what made this trip a “dream come true” for Kaitlyn Guillory, a first-year master’s student at ASU.

“Going on a mission trip has always been a dream of mine and when I learned that Alabama State University offered one that allows its students to get O.T. experience and on-the-job skills in Africa, it excited me and I signed up for it at once,” Guillory stated enthusiastically. “ASU is spectacular and Dr. Dickson and our faculty are very supportive, just like a close-knit family. If they will allow me the honor, I want to participate again next summer.”

The Ville Platte, La. native said the University’s program has truly changed her life educationally and spiritually.

“The other O.T.s that we worked with on the trip were so open to teaching us and showing us there is so much opportunity with therapy and so many different ways of treating one thing; even with limited resources,” Guillory said.

Dickson said that ASU's program is unique because it allows students to have a ‘hands-on” global experience that compliments its campus-based academic regimen of learning.

“When seeing our students help those forgotten children in Uganda with O.T. treatment and therapy, I truly felt His glory,” Dickson said.

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