Occupational Therapy Conference in Glasgow
On Saturday November 8th, 2014 I had the opportunity to attend the SOTLS Occupational Therapy Conference in Glasgow. We were invited by previous volunteer, Lara, who wanted to talk to other students on her course about the opportunity to gain valuable work experience by volunteering with SLV on the Occupational Therapy Placement.
When I arrived there were over 120 Occupational Therapy students in attendance, so the conference was buzzing with energy despite the 8am start on a Saturday morning. As I was setting up for the presentation, Lara came through the door and I had to look twice before I recognised her.
Now, all of us who have been to Sri Lanka know what I’m talking about when I say that we look…different when we’re there. The 32 degree heat and 75% humidity give all of us a bit of a dewy sheen and adds plenty of, shall we say, volume to our hair. Lara looked incredibly glamorous and she made similar comments about my equally surprising appearance. I’ve recently cut in a fringe, which factoring in the sweat, would be impossible in Sri Lanka.
After we finished hugging and catching up, people filtered into the room. I began by speaking about SLV as an organisation and then handed over to Lara to speak about the placement specifics. Lara was one of our first ever OTs on the Occupational Therapy Placement. She stayed for 10 weeks last summer and was a massive part of why the placement was such a success. I knew she’d have a lot of things to say about her experience, but I wasn’t expecting her words to be so emotive.
Lara spoke initially about the skills she had as an OT before she departed for Sri Lanka. In her presentation this was illustrated as a suitcase filled with all her OT skills. She then explained how she needed to adapt those skills, experience and knowledge once in she’d arrived in Sri Lanka. For instance, making a cup of tea often required a trip out to the well, so assisting Service Users with daily activities presented new and unexpected challenges.
She spoke eloquently and passionately about the activities she and her fellow OTs ran. I really enjoyed hearing about the potted plant activity they did at a home for boys with learning disabilities. The boys all decorated all their own pots and planted seeds in them. Lara said that every time she and the team worked there, the boys would greet them at the door with their pots in their hands, so proud of what they had done and how their plants were growing.
Lara then illustrated the skills she felt she’d gained from working in Sri Lanka, and this is where I got a little misty-eyed. She said that her time with SLV improved her confidence and her cultural awareness, which has benefited her massively in her final year on placement before she graduates. She also said she had made great friends and lifetime memories.
I felt Lara did an excellent job of describing the both challenges and rewards of getting work experience abroad. She was able to convey successfully that from her perspective, although volunteering abroad wasn’t always easy, the overall experience was worth it.
I want to take this opportunity to say thank you so much to Lara for organising this opportunity, for creating and sharing such a lovely presentation and for her continued support of SLV.
See below for a list of other University Talks that I will be giving this year;