How can you support the work we do?
Like all charities, Cerebral Palsy Africa relies on donations to be able to carry out its projects. Those donations can be cash or they can be the donation of time and expertise from volunteers who are willing to travel to Africa to provide training courses for those working with children with cerebral palsy.
If you are able to make a cash contribution, please see our donations page for full details. If you think you could be one of our volunteer trainers you need to know that we expect you to have at least 2 years’ experience of working as a physiotherapist or occupational therapist with children with cerebral palsy and also preferably to have completed the 8 week Bobath course in paediatrics. This page is to provide more information about volunteering for Cerebral Palsy Africa beginning with the personal stories of two volunteers.
Working with CPA, on a 3 week project in Malawi in 2010 was a life changing experience. I think I learned more about myself in those 3 weeks than during any other point in my life and am a better person, teacher and therapist as a result.
Working in a resource limited environment challenges you on so many levels. You are forced to be more resourceful, imaginative and adaptive and have to find very different ways to achieve goals and engage people, especially when those people come from a very different background to your own. There is no power point or white board to hide behind; there’s you, a group of students and a whole day to fill.
Teaching in Malawi has improved my teaching skills and I find teaching and communicating with large audiences much easier and much more fluent than before. I had experience of teaching at university level before I went away but was always stressed by the prospect of teaching for a day. After coming back, this came much easier, without the stress and with much better delivery.
No amount of reading or interest in cultural competency can replace real life experience and full immersion in a culture.
From spending time in Malawi, I have completely redressed the way I work with families; in terms of joint goal setting and problem solving and explaining elements of treatment. This is something I felt I was good at before I went away, but learning about different cultural rules, norms and priorities has made me see things in a very different way. It is much easier to explain ideas and concepts in context and really find out about the role of the child in the family and how they and their families see the world.
Families also respond very well to your life experience and the commonality that is shared when you have worked in the country, or even continent where they have come from. There is an appreciation that you understand more about their background and values from living and working and teaching, rather than visiting as a tourist. It affords you a credibility that is otherwise often difficult to achieve.
Funding this project is more than investing in a project, it is investing in people. People who will continue to make ongoing real changes, for children and their families well beyond the duration of the project.
Working for Cerebral Palsy Africa in Malawi in 2010, I worked alongside another physiotherapist to train special educational needs teachers on how to work with and include children with cerebral palsy and other disabilities. Planning a ten day training course for a group of people you have never met, in a culture which is new to you and an environment where the resources are limited is always a significant challenge, but I was fortunate to be able to draw on my own experiences of working in Africa and on the outstanding teaching skills and clinical expertise of my colleague. Drawing on previous CPA modules, we developed a training program where the teaching was driven by the students at all times, and where the content was based around an essential framework that changed and evolved as each day of the training progressed.
Working with children in Africa who have developed significant and sadly preventable disability is always a challenge emotionally, and yet it re-affirms the belief that the work we do in Africa and in the UK is of huge importance. My own teaching skills have undoubtedly improved immeasurably as a result of the projects I have undertaken with CPA, both because of the talented people I have worked alongside, the students we have taught, and the children we have worked with. My skills as a therapist have also improved through the time spent working with disabilities that I would rarely see in the UK, and through problem solving scenarios that I would not normally encounter, but which nevertheless inspire me to always try to think of new and creative ways of finding solutions to any challenge.
I have learnt to always consider the needs and beliefs of the families I work with. Working now in London, the majority of families I work with come from cultures that differ from my own, and without the experience I have gained from working abroad I would at times struggle to support them as I am now able to do.
I hope that through the work we have done we have helped to improve the lives of hundreds or perhaps thousands of children in Africa. I can also be sure that the care I provide for children in London, and the training I give to colleagues, has been enhanced significantly by my experiences.