About Me

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From February 2012 - August 2012, I will be embarking on a journey to Guyana. This amazing opportunity was organized through CUSO International, a North American non profit organization that promotes sustainable development by placing skilled workers in developing countries. I have been practicing Occupational Therapy for the last 4 years in Canada. Some of the areas I will be working on include building the capacity of rehabilitation assistants through sharing of knowledge and increasing national awareness of rehabilitation services. I will be based in Georgetown, but I will also be visiting the inner regions. Thank you for visiting my blog!

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Region 2 & 3 Visits

Regions of Guyana 


Region 3 - West Demerara Hospital 

Staff: 1 Physiotherapist and 3 Rehab. Assistants (RAs)

Good sized department for the amount of patients that come through with enough PT, OT and SLP equipment and resources to service these patients. 

Focus was on clinical practice, incorporating more functional activities into treatment and focusing on the why behind these activities. For example instead of only prescribing hand exercises to a stroke patient, relating it to daily activities like making roti to work the same muscles, etc. 

Can you spot the Enabling OT book!! Yay Canada
Region 2 - Suddie (Mondays), Charity & Anna Regina (Fridays)
Travel: Hour mini bus ride from Georgetown to Parika. Speedboat from Parika to Supenaam. Then car to Charity. Total travel time was about 3.5 hours.
Main base is Charity, which is staffed by 1 physiotherapist and 3 RAs. The PT and one RA do the outreaches on Mondays and Wednesdays, where they travel to Suddie and Anna Regina for the day. 
               Rehab. Dept. in Suddie shared with Audiology

Innovation at its best


1st room waiting area

Pics of the Charity Dept.                       

2nd room treatment beds

Temporary filing system we implemented
3rd room with speech and treatment areas

 This is a very busy department and as you can see the space is very cluttered. There was equipment everywhere! Imagine 4 staff and 6 patients in this area at the same time. Due to the space limitations, a filing system had been attempted but unsuccessful. Our focus here became centred around departmental organization. 

The department in Anna Regina was based in an old house. It was an open space. There was a living room with sofas, a full kitchen, bathroom and 3 bedrooms. There is no equipment kept here, and so it must be brought over each time.  

Some more info regarding my placement:

My placement is funded by the EU under a project called ABLE, "Action for Building capacity, Learning together, and Empowering disable people in Guyana. It's a 4 year project that is now coming to its end. Consequently I will be the last OT,  as there will be no CUSO/VSO replacement, nor a local trained OT. 

Key stakeholders:

-Division of Rehabilitation Services of the Ministry of Health (MOH)
-National Commission on Disability (NCD)
-Guyana Community-Based Rehabilitation (CBR)
-Eyecare Guyana   

Two Key Result Areas:

1. Increased capacity of disabled people's organizations (DPOs) and NCD, build a strong rights-based disability movement which represents the views and priorities of people with disabilities is Guyana.

2. Increased access for disabled people to rehabilitation services, which addressed their needs. 

While i'm here i'll be focusing on the following items:
  • Developing the new OT department in the Georgetown Public Hospital, which is currently staffed by 2 RAs. 
  • Clinically supporting the RA's at David Rose School, Diamond School, Cheshire Home, and Ptolemy Reid Rehab. Centre Marid.
  • Visiting regions 1 & 8. New departments that have never received any OT contact. There will possibly be follow up visits to other regions depending on time and funding.  

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Caribbean Flava - My Top Music Picks

I love love these songs, check them out! 

Kes - Wotless
       - Coming Over
       - Precision Wine
       - Where Yuh From
       - Take me Away
       - Stress Away

Mavado - Settle Down
              - Delilah

Laza Morgan - One by One

Mr. Vegas - Hot Wuk

Kerwin Du Bois - Bacchanalist

Machel Montano - Vibes Cyah Done
                            - In Charge
                            - Mr. Fete
                            - Bend Over
                            - Make Yuh Rock

Christopher Martin - Cheaters Prayer

Popcaan (I went to his house!!) - Only Man She Want
                                                  - Party Shot

Skinny Fabulous - 630

Benjai - Whine to de side

JW & Blaze - Palance

Mr. Vegas - Bruk it Down

Lil Rick - Guh Dung
              - Jones & Wuk
              - Eh Yo

Shurwayne Winchester - Whine on it

Demarco - I love my Life

Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Wakenaam Day 3

After a week of going out, partying and more going out, the time has finally come to buckle down and start work. My first day was Monday and it was also my first regional visit with Sam (the OT I'm replacing).

Guyana is divided into regions (like provinces). I'm based out of Georgetown, which is in Region 4. This week we are in Region 3, Essequibo Islands/West Demerara (so west of Georgetown). Since it's not too far, we are commuting from Georgetown daily.

Monday and Tuesday we spent at the hospital in West Demerara (I'll post about what we did there in a separate entry). Today we travelled to the Islands and visited Wakenaam. We aimed to leave by 6am. However, we woke up to heavy heavy pouring rain! It had rained all night and the canals this morning were flooded. The rain is to continue until the weekend, so there is potential for major flooding in Georgetown (some parts already are). This of course didn't stop us. We hopped into a taxi to the port, from there took a mini bus (about an hours drive), then a speed boat to Wakenaam (30 min ride).

We got to the hospital and due to the weather there were no patients. In Guyana, the rain is a legitimate excuse to be late or not show at all. We met the rehabilitation assistant(RA), M, who services the area and spent the day with her. The RAs in Guyana are trained to do SLP, PT and OT! This was M's first in-person contact with an OT. We reviewed cases with her and how she could be more OT focused with her patients, went over seating and play, did a couple of administrative things, went over the equipment and assessments she has, etc. We also touched on ways she can promote OT to her colleagues and the public to increase referrals. 

Here's a list of her OT equipment:
All the Rehab. forms and equipment in this single unit!
-speech cards
-one kid's book
-young child's feeding set
-bag of building blocks  
Yup that's it!
So we brainstormed ways she could be resourceful, making a drop splint and hand splints with cardboard and cloth materials, forming a ball with plastic bags then covering it with tape, filling bottles with rice, etc. She will be receiving a kit that Sam and the SLP have put together, which will contain basic equipment. 

Unfortunately since transportation is quite expensive around Guyana, patient's will come for an initial assessment, but will not return for follow up visits impacting their rehab. progress. This is a huge huge issue!! M luckily is able to do home visits. My plan is to keep in touch and support M, and follow up with her in a couple of months and do another visit.   

Separate Men's & Women's Unit
No electricity M-Th from 8am-2pm

Waiting Area

Getting back on the speed boat. 

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

A Week of Firsts

Thursday officially marked my one week anniversary in Guyana and a lot has happened since then. I moved into my new home Thursday. It's a 2 bedroom flat in the middle of Georgetown, in a pretty happening area. One day in to my new neighbourhood and I'm having drinks with a well known soca artist, Big Red and her mom (a local actress), who I was introduced to by T. It can get loud at night..Alison Hinds, MJ and a hint of Celine Dion can all be heard simultaneously, you just have to tune into the type of music you like.

On Friday we had our first Creolese lesson, which was tricky but awesome.
Here are a couple of examples:
"Everyday buckit a go a well wan day he battam must drap off"
"Dis wata de col col"(adjective repeated twice to convey very much)
As you can see the expressions are very animated and colourful, with a lot of emphasis to show emotion.

The weekend started off with Digicel's 5th anniversary concert, featuring Keri Hilson and Morgan Heritage (a local reggae band). My first concert in Guyana and it did not disappoint!

Other firsts: I learnt how to "Palance", thx A! I did laundry using my washing machine, a.k.a. an empty bucket, then set up a line to dry the clothing outside. I started to boil and filter my water and most importantly sealed all my food in bags/containers to avoid seeing any ants inside..

Despite all these experiences, the best part of the weekend was meeting T. If you look around Georegetown, it is completely inaccessible for people with disabilities (PWDs as they are referred to here), especially wheelchair users. Not all the roads have sidewalks, there are no ramps, etc. The roads can be uneven, filled with potholes and crowded. I actually haven't seen anyone mobilizing around Georgetown with any aids, with the exception of a lady ambulating with a cane. That was until I met T. T is a wheelchair user and navigates the streets of Georgetown amazingly! She uses the mini bus (the crowded mode of transport I described in my first post), which does not have any special seating and can take up to two hours to arrive. There are no lifts or elevators. To access a friend's place, she had to call someone over to piggyback her up 3 flights of stairs. Just a night out to a club would require a lot of preplanning. The lack of accessibility has also impacted T's productivity. She changed her career focus, as the school she wanted to attend was not accessible. It makes me truly appreciate Canada's focus on universal design.

I officially begin work next Monday and can't wait to get started!!

Bye for now!



Sunday, 12 February 2012


This is my first posting ever and I'm not sure really where to begin. After preparing for the last month and a half I am finally here in Georgetown, Guyana. So maybe I'll just start with describing Guyana and my first impressions.

Guyana is derived from an Amerindian word meaning, "Land of Many Waters". The population is around 767,245 with most people living in the capital city, Georgetown. The main language is English, but Creole, Hindi, Urdu and Amerindian languages are also used.

I am based in Georgetown, which is situated on the Atlantic coast. It's a small city in North American standards. It would take about 30-45 minutes from one end to the other. There's a Seawall that runs from Georgetown all the way to Suriname. For those of you in Vancouver, it's nothing like the one there! The water is very very brown because of the mud. There is a bit of sand, but it's quite rocky and mixed with trash. The Seawall is also a common spot for couples to hang out in their cars in the evenings.

The weather is hot and humid! Luckily there hasn't been much rain. Many people carry around umbrellas or wear hats to avoid sunburn. I am definitely going to invest in an umbrella. The mosquitos have been better than I thought, no big swarms like I expected. I have a couple of bites. I wear the repellant and use my mosquito net at night. Hopefully it will remain this way.

There is quite a few CUSO/VSO volunteers in Georgetown and in the interior. Some have been here for six months to a couple of years. The batch I came with consists of six volunteers, myself included. Three girls from Canada, one from Uganda and one from Holland. Everyone is pretty cool and easy to get along with. The six of us are staying together in a guesthouse while we are being oriented. The rooms here are pretty simple with common bathroom and shower (only cold showers). We will be moving in our houses after orientation.

The food is amazing!!!! I definitely will not be going hungry here. The food is a mix of Caribbean and Indian cuisine. There is also Asian and Brazilian influence. Lots of plantain and cassava as well. The fruit is also delicious, so sweet. You can find everything here. The coconut water in unreal and you can actually scoop out the jelly to eat (wayyyy better than the one in Miami!) I'm sure I could survive just on fruit. The markets are plentiful with fresh fruits and vegetables.

We had our first exposure to the markets yesterday on our shopping tour. The merchants are very helpful and not at all aggressive. You don't really bargain and there doesn't seem a need to, as the prices are reasonable. There is also a couple of supermarkets and malls. You can find anything you need here!

You can walk everywhere, but the heat limits you, as well as time of day. As soon as it's dark, it's not advised to be out alone. Depending on how you feel personally and the distance, you can take a taxi, which has a standard fare of $300-$400 Guyanese Dollars= $1.50-$2.00 US. During the day you can also use minibuses. They cost around $60 Guyanese Dollars, which is very cheap. The drivers do pack the buses and drive fast so they can pick up as many passengers as possible. We used a minibus for the first time yesterday and it was cramped and hot, but fine.

Guyana's main production in sugar cane. Many of you may know of Demerara sugar. However that is not the only thing the Guyanese use their sugar for...yes it's also used for rum! ElDorado Rum is a huge industry here!! It's not bad rum, not that I can really compare it to others, as i'm not a huge rum drinker. I have heard that the older versions are very smooth. We are planning to check out the Distillery. The local Beer is Banks, which they produce just outside of Georgetown along with Guinness.

Now for the nightlife.. According to one of the locals, there is always a party! When does it end..not until people leave. There is a couple of clubs and plenty of places where you can hang out and drink. The music is amazing and a mix of everything. A lot of the local DJs have gone to Europe and other parts of the world to discover the music scene there, which they then bring back to Guyana. If you love soca, dancehall, reggae, this is the place for you!! I have yet to see the whining, enough said there.

Masramani (MASH) in on the 23rd of February, also Republic Day. MASH sounds like Guyana's version of Carnival! Super excited for that. The other holidays observed here are traditional Western holidays (Christmas, Easter, etc.), as well as Hindu and Muslim festivals, such as Divali and Eid. If there is a holiday, everyone comes out to celebrate!
From an Occupational Therapist standpoint, I don't have much to say as I haven't started work yet. I haven't seen too many hospitals around, but there is a mix of public and private facilities. In speaking to the other volunteers, there is a real challenge to get people with disabilities to register with the ministry. There are about 50000 people with disabilities and only 4000 of these people have registered. Consequently this impacts funding. There is one special needs school that I know of, the "David Rose School for the Handicapped". I'm not sure if I will have any involvement there.

A lot of you have asked me to describe what Georgetown is like so far, so hope I have given enough details. I'm sure you'll let me know if I haven't.

Pictures to come! Love you guys and miss you!