But first, what is PSIEE?
PSIEE is the international solidarity project of occupational therapists’ students. It is a project created by the French National Association of OT students, the UNAEE. For the last 3 years, 5 or 6 second years OT students go to Madagascar for 1 month during the summer to practice occupational therapy. Last year, the team was composed of Morgane, Marie, Yann, Océane and Anne-Claire, a group of twenty years old OT students from all over France.
What we did
We stepped in the association Les Orchidées Blanches, a medical and educational center welcoming children with mental disability or intellectual impairment. Its goals are various including many aspects of the children’s lifes such as therapeutic, educational, social and familial ones.
We spent 3 weeks in the association : everyday, we met a group of 4-5 children with the same type of disabilities and we assessed their needs and abilities. We were looking at their autonomy in dressing, drawing, writing, reading, praxis, comprehension and expression, social abilities, construction, motor and sensitive abilities (music, dance, sing …). Educators assisted every session because children didn’t talk french, so they translated everything we said, for them. They were, besides helpful, very curious about occupational therapy and asked us many questions. Yann and Anne-Claire also had the opportunity to visit a child’s home.
Once the assessments were done, we offered individual and collective rehabilitation sessions. We had to adapt ourselves, because there were fewer equipment than what we were used to. But adapting is an essential part of being an OT, so we had it all covered!
We also created a “bimanual board” for children. We took an old wood board and covered it with fabric where we sewed several objects used in daily living that requires using both hands together. We offered it to the educator team and wrote an explicative paper.
Educators from the center didn’t really know about occupational therapy. So we did a presentation to explain what our job consists of. We also explained to them how to handle heavy loads without hurting their backs. They were very interested and glad to learn about it. And we were also very happy to help them! To thank us, they taught us Malagasy dances and made us discover traditional snacks and cocktails !!! Such a great moment to remember!
We were also able to meet Malagasy OT students and discuss how OT education is in their country. They showed us around several facilities where they went on placement.
It is interesting to note that even if OT studies exist in Madagascar, there are no employed occupational therapist. They only do voluntary work for now in order to promote their profession. We met Anry-Luis, an OT from South Africa that created the OT school and is actively working to open up opportunities for the students to go on placement and try and advocate for them and develop the profession in Madagascar.
Of course, we also enjoyed doing a bit of tourism during this trip to discover the beauty of the country.
Anne-Claire’s testimony : New culture, wonderful landscapes, rice (too much rice!!), awareness of inequalities, new look on lifestyle. It was a rich, human and humanizing experience, with my lovely team. It makes me want to come back and to promote our great job of occupational therapist… Despite its precariousness, Madagascar is full of beauty and resources!
A little thank you note
This project wouldn’t have been possible without the help of : Orchidées Blanches, and Fara in particular who warmly welcomed us, France Volontaire, Rado and his Malagasy occupational therapists students, Anry-Luis and UNAEE.
We would like to especially thank all of them.
As we were the fourth edition of PSIEE, a new team is taking over for next summer, still in Madagascar ! You can follow them on facebook “PSIEE 2020” or on website https://psiee2020.wixsite.com/psiee2020?fbclid=IwAR03l516yL_M8Om5kCuFwBd0_7gX2-UJm3j_K0T_3QmFaT1nYHqi7bn6nW8
I wanted to mention that the rights of the pictures above are not mine and the owners of them are mentioned in the captions bellow them.
Stay safe and stay active!