1) Participating in this trip helped me think a lot about what kind of OT I want to be and what the role of OT (international or domestic practitioner) could or should be. Being back in North America, I am regularly reminded that one does not have to fly across an ocean or drive even 5 miles to find children growing up in difficult situations who need love and services. It only takes turning on the local news or opening up a web browser to come up with many ideas of how we could volunteer right at home to try and decrease the burden carried by our nations children and families. While it might not be as exciting as packing a bag and getting on a jet plane, regularly volunteering at a homeless shelter, shelter for victims of domestic violence, food bank, Ronald McDonald house, centre for immigrant services…these are all things that can be done here to promote occupational justice through use of the skills we have as OTs. They may not be in a different country but even local participation can provide personal growth opportunities like those we had in Ghana such as learning words in new languages, experiencing belief systems that are not your own, and practicing cultural competency. It is also a great way to learn more about our own communities and the parts of them that we may not see or know much about. These options allow for continued involvement which may allow the effect we have to be more long lasting and meaningful for us and for the people we work with. And we may even get to enjoy some sort of air conditioning while we’re at it.
2) I’m glad that occupational justice is a concept that is part of our curriculum and that it is regularly impressed upon us how important it is to practice in a client-centred manner. We could have headed in this unknown Ghana and tried to show them everything we know without listening and looking at what it is they need and want but I often heard myself and my trip-mates asking questions about what future trips to Volta could look like and how we could spend our time there in a way that we could actually help. No one had any easy answers but I think this trip was a great opportunity for each of us to really experience how valuable many of those general and obvious feeling concepts we talk about in class are. It can be challenging when you’re excited and have all these ideas of how to ‘fix’ things to remember the context and specific needs of the individual you are working with. This trip helped hit home the importance of these things for our future practice here in North America.
3) I’m really excited about the OT program that is being developed at the University of Ghana and what it hopefully means for the future of OT in Ghana. I hope that VCU is able to maintain a relationship with the program as is develops and grows. It seems like exchanges between our program and theirs could provide some wonderful cross-cultural learning experience and help to create a sustainable method of supporting the growth of OT in Ghana. The opportunity to do problem solving exercises with their students and get to know them over lunch was definitely one of my highlights of my trip. I was really impressed by their ability to explain to me what they feel their education is about and their fears and questions about what and how they will practicing in a few years.