The Smile Awhile Foundation is a nonprofit organization that creates a continuous pipeline of pediatric therapists to the Caribbean, and their goals include connecting people, communities and cultures to provide a steady stream of services to children who would otherwise have no access. With funding provided by Friends of Jamaica they were able to conduct a four hour workshop for 15 Jamaican medical professionals teaching them how to create custom splints for special needs youth.
The organization was also able to donate material to make custom splints to St Ann’s Bay Regional Hospital for the local Jamaican professionals to continue to use for children in need, with one therapist stating, “These new items will definitely help by reducing time to make splints and I also like the fact that they can be reused once a child has upgraded from a splint. It should overall help with the functionality and aesthetics of my patients.”
Volunteer Clover Hutchinson, Assistant Professor in the Department of Occupational Therapy at the School of Health Sciences and Professional Programs of York College, said overall she noticed a lack of understanding about the depth of what Occupational Therapists do, and that the gap in occupation-based interventions means that many children likely have unattended developmental needs. They were able to provide that experience through our splinting workshop during this mission trip. “One memory that stands out is how eager they were to learn,” Volunteer Mary Devadas said. “They were excited about using the thermoplastics and picking our brains about other interventions to apply to their patients.”
The reality is that many challenges still exist to serve special needs youth in Jamaica. The Smile Awhile Foundation will continue to fundraise to send more materials to island, and hope to establish other partnerships to improve the availability of materials and continue to teach current splinting techniques to the therapists already working in Jamaica.
To learn more about the organization and their efforts you can visit their website at smileawhilefoundation.org.