ANOTHER HEALING JOURNEY...Carribean style!
Last March while accompanying a client to the Nova Scotia Rehabilitation for a specialized wheelchair seating assessment, I met a lovely fellow Occupational Therapist ~ Carolyn Kelly. An incredibly kind and skilled therapist. I had no idea our meeting would lead to an amazing adventure to Belize with Team Canada Healing Hands later in April 2014!!
www.teamcanadahealinghands.ca. Check us out on Facebook !
www.canadahelps.org Donations to the "Belize Missions"
Carolyn has been involved with Team Canada Healing for a number of years, travelling to Haiti, the middle East and Belize to provide volunteer rehabilitation services for both adults and children ~ specifically education, training, and hands on assessment in order to create seating systems for people in need of mobility aid.
Ruth Duggan, of Cornerstone Occupational Therapy Consultants www.cornerstoneot.com, the dedicated team leader organizes each trip for months (really the whole year) in advance and then off they go.....well...off I went along with them this time around !!
When Carolyn asked me " So, Amanda, what are you doing in April?", I replied ~ "..same as now...working, caring for my children ...living life !". Then she opened a door and posed a question that I could only have one answer for ~ " I am part of TCHH and we are headed to Belize for our third trip and we could use another therapist ~ would you be interested to join us? " YES!! YES!! YES!!
It was one of those times when I did not what would be going on in life at the time the team would be set to leave, what I would do work wise...kids etc..how I was going to raise the $1500.00 required by each team member in a little over a month?!....but I had a deep knowing inside & my inner voice shouted from within ~ "YES...you will figure it out as you go!"
That is just what I did ~
Sometimes we simply have to trust, say, "YES" and figure it out as things unfold....the most profound and life changing experiences often show up this way, if we can TRUST and remain OPEN to their possibility !!!
Little did I know I would be hearing my inner voice shouting again, just as 'the perfect property' for myself & my family manifested right around the same time ~ here I was again, " YES!!...I will figure this out as I go....one step at a time...TRUST" !!
At the same time, lady bugs kept showing up in different parts of my house, when this happens I am always intrigued & look to animal spirit medicine for further insight....and it never fails to be spot on!
A little lady bug medicine for all of you interested in animal spirit medicine and the messages available to us when we are open & noticing ~ to qoute www.shamanicjourney.com, the lady bug represents "...renewal, regeneration, fearlessness, protection, good luck, wishes being fulfilled, protection... As fear cannot exist amongst joy, the ladybug brings a message of promise, for they get us back in touch with the joy of living - we must let go of our fears and go back to our roots, to love. We are also taught to restore our trust and faith in the universe, we have to get over ourselves, our egos, and allow life to take its course going with the flow...Their short life span teaches us not to worry, and to live life to the full and always in the now. Let go, let the universe and your inner voice guide you.".
I am a firm believer that the universe provides only that which we are ready for ~ even if we are not yet convinced :) AND whether these are positive and/or challenging life events.
Things will often line up in a nice, easy, orchestrated way when we are aligning with what is true match to our inner desires.
That doesn't mean we still don't have to remain steadfast in our vision, and make decisions and choices to support the direction we are headed but it somehow moves forward with greater ease when one can trust and takes things one step at a time....almost neutral to the outcome....trusting that everything will be fine if "X" DOES happen....and equally trusting that everything will be fine if" X" DOESN'T happen"...this takes practice!!
Sometimes, we only see in hindsight why things appeared, or crumbled, and the wisdom behind these events...our soul's journey to learn, grow and ascend throughout the course of our lives.
So, trust and preparation led to an amazing trip with a truly compassionate, skilled, dedicated, and fun team of kindred spirits.
Samantha Gould, RN and team leader in training so to speak, and I met for the first time the night before our departure, when I drove to her apartment in Halifax and knocked on her door at 10pm. The wee hours came very quickly the next day and we packed up the taxis with hockey bags full of wheelchairs parts, toys for assessment, duct tape, pool noodles....and a handful of pediatric wheelchairs...off the the airport!
I won't get in to the Air Canada fiasco and 'unhelpfull' experience that ensued ~ a rant for another time.
Let's just say....extra baggage fees, over-sized luggage tags, and running full tilt for the plane !!
My yoga practice always with me ~ off the mat ~ the course of potential events were simple. We were either going to be allowed to take our gear and make the flight, or we wouldn't?! AND at that point we would ponder the next step.
In yoga this relates to both "Samtosha" & "Isvara pranidam" one of the 'Niyamas', of the 8 limbs of Yoga from the Yoga Sutras 2.29.
Samtosha ~ Acceptance of what has happened in a positive way. Practicing sentiments of contentment and gratitudes...think of something....anything positive about the situation right away ~ by choice!
Isvara pranidam ~ acceptance of what is...surrender...and leave the rest to the wisdom of the universe.
Surprisingly, charitable work and supplies are not much revered by airline process & procedure....but luckily the reverence lies within the hearts of the humans at the gates...we were meant to get on that plane!
I love to travel, am good with planes, and pretty much all manner of transportation....luckily I can sleep almost anywhere. This flight was no different ~ it was in fact a welcome opportunity to get to know Sam and rest before the true adventure began. Especially since, I was still recovering from a gastro bug which I caught only days before I was meant to leave for Belize ~ ah yes, us yogis and energy medicine people would also recognize this as 'Power Center' stuff....yup ~ no doubt about it!
Belize, like many developing nations struggles to create and maintain services for both children and adults with disabilities due to very obvious socio-economic issues and often unstable government infrastructure. Belize, similar to many other countries, relies heavily on the aid of both local, and international, aid agencies for some basic health and dental care, as well as rehabilitation services and education.
Our team had a specific focus...
To quote Ruth, our fearless big hearted team leader " This is a very focused group, with the goal of providing ongoing support to families and caregivers of children with disabilities. We will provide specific training in the area of wheelchair/seating assessment, and wheelchair mobility skills."
Relations already established with local care agencies from previous visits and much liaison on the part of Ruth, and Sam, had us set with a tentative plan for our week of work ~ Belize City and a town inland, called,Orange Walk town.
We all arrived separately in Belize within a day or so of one another, and once all arrived with gathered to meet ~ there were four returning team members, and four newbies ~ me included!
First stop, Belize city ~
Set up in the dining hall of a local school for children with a variety of physical and developmental disabilities.
Our days were long, hot and full of activity ~ assessing children...some new to the team, some returning for ongoing care from previous visits from TCHH. Many children whom had cerebral palsy, spina bifida, and a variety of other conditions. Belizean families, and family friends, traveled long distances to bring their children...some by rental car, taxi and by bus....traveling long hours and patiently waiting in the Caribbean heat.
The local, and international, care agencies were, and are, working hard to establish assessment and rehabilitation services for the children of Belize. There is much effort to support the local "'Fieldwork Officers' who travel to the villages, and more remote areas, hoping to locate and identify children in need of services. Many of whom have either not heard about, or have no way to access burgeoning services in the city center.
Part of our role was to also provide education, and opportunity for hands on assessment ~ assistance, to the fieldwork officers, so that when TCHH completes the trip, they are better able to carry on a basic level of seating assessment and wheelchair adaptation ~ often working with a variety of donated items from other aid organizations.
This was one aspect that really drew me to want to go with TCHH ~ the approach is not only about providing hands on service, but also to support sustainability in the regions by partnering with the local care providers and empowering them with knowledge and experience.
Carolyn, set up education sessions for the fieldwork officers specifically around basic wheelchair seating assessment and prescription, following the World Health Organization guidelines. http://www.who.int/disabilities/technology/wheelchairpackage/en/
"The main purpose of the training package is to develop the minimum skills and knowledge required by personnel involved in wheelchair service delivery. An important aim of the training package is to get it integrated into the regular paramedical/rehabilitation training programs such as physiotherapy, occupational therapy, prosthetics and orthotics, rehabilitation nursing."
Often the fieldwork officers will receive donations of wheelchairs from international agencies but lack the education and training of how to assess the person in need, and match their needs to what they have available ~ Many times what they have may need to be modified!!
This is area of expertise for Occupational Therapists ~ and boy did we have to get creative...here is where the duct tape, pool noodles, electric bread knife AND our amazing technicians came together with our OT brains to literally, create seating systems from the parts, pieces and wheelchairs we brought with us. Carolyn, our seating guru, was always encouraging, patient...and espousing her amazing 'can do' attitude!
Creating lateral postural supports with pool noodles, whilst adapting a stroller to provide trunk and lower extremity support.
Our technicians Otto & Steve hard a work!!
The fieldwork officers not only had some lecture/discussion format education sessions but had an opportunity to work directly with us to assess and create seating solutions with what materials we had.
As OTs, our role encompasses care-giver education and training also...whether for children or adults.
How to dis-assemble a wheelchair for transportation, how to negotiate steps and stairs as the attendant driver of the chair....or how to safely and effectively self-propel a wheelchair are all topics we review with our clients and those who care for them.
Wheelchair maintenance, and skills training was also provided. Not only for some of the lovely children we worked with but a few local Belizean adult wheelchair users came to visit eager to learn some new tricks!
Solution focused team work ~ grass roots passion~ compassionate cultural sensitivity ~ all very much a part of the experience!
All very much worth a long day's work....
AND, at the end of the day....wheelchair accessible swing on site!!! Oh yeah!
Second stop ~ Orange Walk, a town approximately 1.5hrs north of Belize city. This time we were set up in a local cultural center.
Once again, creativity flowed to meet the needs of the children that arrived throughout each day ~
Pool noodles come in handy again, when fabricating a wheelchair cushion in order to provide postural support and off-loading to the bottom area, thus maintaining skin integrity & preventing skin breakdown.
We also had the opportunity to do one remote village visit in Chunox, Corozal District, with the intention to do more ~ alas time ran short...as it takes some time to access these villages.
It did provide a great chance to see how independence has been promoted and where/how we could assist further.
One sweet older boy, who has spina bifida, managed to travel from his house to school daily in his hand propelled three wheeled cart. A regular wheelchair, even with the most rugged wheels and 'shocks', would not be a good fit for the dusty bumpy village roads...this young chap simply growing strong and big, needs another three wheeler ~ just bigger....AND some extra padding in the mean time to prevent any further skin pressure points!
At the end of our work week, we had the honor and pleasure of visiting the first community based pediatric rehabilitation facility built in Belize. "The Inspiration Centre - Where hope Lives" ~ only having it's inaugural opening a couple of weeks prior to our arrival. Sister Beverly at the helm & a primary contact, liaison for our team, and the coordinator of the education of the local field officers we were able to support and work alongside whilst running the clinics.
Check them out ~ www.theinspirationcenter.bz
After an incredibly busy and rewarding week we enjoyed a brief visit to the Lamani jungle and some R&R Belizean style.
We headed for the cayes and fully embraced the local motto "Go Slow" !!
Yoga, always a part of my life experience....supporting my intention to be fully present wherever I am, to be authentic, to practice Svadhaya, Ahimsa & Satya ...especially, when in a different country where cultural values may differ, and I am out of my regular routine ~ needing to remain open and flexible.
Svadhaya ~ self awareness/self-study
Ahimsa ~ to be considerate of the way we are in the world. Reducing potential for harm.
Satya ~ Being authentic, being truthful within the realm of Ahimsa...considering what we say, how we say it and how it may land on others.
Intensive hands on wheelchair assessment and fabrication, different climate and change in diet can wreak a little havoc on the systems. I was fully aware that time for a full daily asana practice was not realistic, but intentional intelligent movement is integral to my (our) health...our bodies designed and created to support movement on all levels. So, I adapted....as we all have a choice to do. I managed a daily morning practice ~ in my bed ! Bed-asana!! The floor was not so inviting :)
Apanasa (knees to chest) and Jithari Privirtti ( lying twist) along with a focus on the exhaling breath to release back tension, stimulate digestion and keep me connected to my breath!! C'est tout!
I am soo grateful to Carolyn for asking me to join TCHH last year, and to have worked with such a fantastic group of human beings!!! Yet another humbling, inspiring, and incredible life experience!!
The team is headed back this year again. Year four! Sadly, timing does not work for me this time around but I am certainly planning to return with them in the future!
We don't always know what is next in our lives but don't let fear, doubt, worry stand in your way when your inner voice is calling to you with "YES"....listen, then trust, and listen some more.....
Love & Peace,
Mother, daughter, sister, friend, therapist, teacher, coach, shamanka, healer, traveler, yogi, dancer, music lover, lover of nature, student of life, spiritual adventurer, seeker of truth, joy and peace...