It’s More Fun in the Philippines!
Hey everyone! I’m back from my three-week absence and I’d love to share what I’ve been up to. As Raisa mentioned in her last post, students in their 2nd year of the Entry-Level Master’s program and the Post-Professional Master’s program plan their own two-week externship experience to engage in during the middle of the Leadership Capstone course. What’s great is that the externship happens right before spring break, so students are able to either continue on in their externship or travel for the full 3 weeks! For my externship, me and 4 other students decided to volunteer with the EN/Ability Project in the Philippines, building adaptive chairs out of cardboard for children with disabilities in a rural village of Cebu.
The EN/Ability Project is an outreach program that provides therapeutic services to underserved children with disabilities in the rural provinces of Cebu. On this volunteer trip, we led a group of volunteers and therapists in building adaptive seating for children with disabilities in Borbon. The children that were identified to benefit from the adaptive chairs have disabilities that impact their ability to participate in fundamental activities in their daily lives, such as feeding, playing, and interacting with their families. We created about 30 individualized chairs, based on the designs of the Adaptive Design Association, an organization that specializes in creating customized seating from low-cost, recyclable materials. We received a training from the founder of the organization, Apple Sepulveda, before we left for the trip. (She also happens to be in the OTD program currently!) This was the first time the EN/Ability Project decided to do this type of program, so it was exciting to be able to start off a new tradition for them.
We met up with around 30 volunteers in Cebu City, and from there we were transported by bus around 2-3 hours north to a small town called Borbon to meet the children we would be assessing and measuring. The volunteer group was a mix of people from different backgrounds and disciplines; some OTs, PTs, and other local volunteers who just wanted to help out! The USC students served as team leaders, and our teams were composed 1-2 other local volunteers. Each team was matched up with 1-2 children, who we met and measured on that first day. I was really glad I had a local volunteer on my team who spoke Cebuano, the language of this region, as the families we met did not speak much English.
After we met the children and families, we headed to our vacation house that all of the volunteers would be staying in for the duration of the program. Lemme tell you… that house was awesome! It was three-stories, large enough to house all 30 volunteers. The house was super spacious, with enough room for all of us to build our chairs. There was even a large lap pool and basketball court in the backyard, with beach access right behind the property! The great thing about this project is that the organizers wanted to make sure that there was a good balance of work and fun, in order to make the experience more enjoyable for everyone.
The first night we took all of the donated cardboard and layered them with glue, to serve as the foundation for our chair building the next few days. In the US, we have much thicker, sturdier cardboard. However in the Philippines, they only have 1-ply cardboard which is much thinner, so we needed to layer about 4 sheets of cardboard in order to have a study base. We also spent some time on our team planning out and sketching our designs. The next day, the building began! With our measurements in hand, lots of cardboard, glue, and power tools, we spent the next few days focused on creating the chairs. I knew it was going to be a lot of hard work going into it, but it was much more labor intensive than I even anticipated. (Plus, the humidity of the Philippines didn’t help much either). After 30+ hours of labor, all of the hard work was worth it once we saw our finished products and the smiles on the children and families’ faces.
We made this…
Which became this!
Hopefully the children and families are happy with their new chairs
One of the best parts of this experience was not only meeting the children and building the chairs, but also getting meet and collaborate with OTs from the Philippines and creating new friendships. As visitors, we felt so welcomed by all of the local volunteers. We even karaoked and toured around the island with some of them afterwards!
Overall, I had such an amazing externship experience and visit to the Philippines – I would do it all again in a heartbeat! Check out this video, made by the EN/Ability Project, that highlights our whole experience!
THIS IS ONE OF THE COOLEST EXTERNSHIPS I HAVE SEEN!!! What a great project! Thanks for sharing!!!