Last January, ten occupational therapy students from the NYU Class of 2014 travelled to South Africa for the Art Aids Art’s annual service learning trip. During their week and a half abroad, NYU students collaborated with the OT department at the University of Cape Town to visit Groote Schuur Hospital and Red Cross Hospital and expand their understanding of global OT practice. They also visited Khayelitsha, a ramshackle city in the outskirts of Cape Town, South Africa. Characterized by some of the harshest urban poverty in the region, many residents live in cramped shacks and trek several hundred yards for access to running water.
In a local community center in the heart of Khayelitsha, NYU OT students demonstrated strategies for improving posture and body mechanics during daily activities, and gave tips about the value of stretching and performing therapeutic exercises.
Now, almost a year after the remarkable trip, Chloe Garcia (NYU OT ’14) is confident that the group of students left an indelible mark on the local population.
“During our time there we shot and edited a video and photos of the exercises we did with the different groups to leave as demonstrations,” said Chloe. “They continue to implement them in the classes offered at the center.”
And for Chloe, the trip to South Africa was only the beginning. “In the future I would really love to take more OT students and continue to build these relationships abroad,” she said. The OT Department at the University of Cape Town encouraged Chloe to return with more OT students, and Art Aids Art runs yearly trips that are sure to attract groups of NYU students in the coming semesters.
Meanwhile, Chloe is already thinking about her next trip. “I plan to do OT work in South Africa at some point more permanently,” she said. “But for now I’m content with visiting and doing as much work and help as much as I can.”