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Occupational Therapy Students Build Relations

young people in Tanzania and occupational therapists

Duquesne occupational therapy students with patients at Hudumi ya Walimavu rehab center for children.

Dr.Anne Marie Witchger Hansen, assistant professor of occupational therapy at Duquesne, recently led a three-week trip to Tanzania to give graduate students and faculty colleagues a firsthand orientation to the needs of occupational therapists there, to lead workshops and to conduct research.

"Two things happened during the first week," says Hansen, who has been researching occupational therapy in Tanzania for much of her career. "We introduced students to health care service delivery, and we conducted an assessment of medical supply and equipment needs that Brother's Brother here in Pittsburgh has committed to sending this year." Brother's Brother Foundation, based in Pittsburgh, works with partners to distribute medicine, supplies and equipment to areas in need around the world.

"Our job that first week was to determine what hospitals and clinics needed," says Hansen, whose group visited government hospitals, Spiritan hospitals and Lutheran hospitals across the Arusha region in Tanzania.

africa mapTraining Occupational Therapists

During their second week, the group traveled to the city of Moshi, home of KCMC Hospital and two community-based rehabilitation centers. There, Hansen, along with Dr. Jaime Munoz, associate professor and chair of occupational therapy at Duquesne, and Dr. Ingrid Provident from Chatham University, led professional development seminars for a group of Tumaini University occupational therapy faculty and 25 members of a Tanzania occupational therapy association.

The third leg of Hansen's trip allowed her to further her own research, which focuses on the development of evidence-based occupational therapy practice in Tanzania, and the challenges and barriers that persons with disabilities face there.

"The results of these studies provide therapists with evidence of how persons with disabilities benefit from vocational training years down the road. It's really about justice," says Hansen. "Our goal is to help strengthen OT practice so they can provide enhanced services."

Vocational Training Center Started by Spiritans

Hansen's research is a partnership with a Spiritan project-the Olkokola Vocational Training Center, which conducts an 18-month program for physically disabled young people. "The results of these studies provide therapists with evidence of how persons with disabilities benefit from vocational training years down the road."

The center, run by Fr. Pat Patten,C.S.Sp., teaches masonry, carpentry, agro-veterinary care and tailoring. One young man, who was born without hands, now operates his ownsuccessful business with the skills andsewing machine provided to him bythe center.

Hansen says that nearly 10 percent of Tanzania's 43 million people have physical disabilities due to disease or birth defects. She plans to continue studying how occupational therapists overcome the challenges of working with people with disabilities.