In response to the local and regional demand for Occupational Therapists (OT), The University of Southern Caribbean (USC) has become the first and only tertiary level institution in the Caribbean to offer a Master of Science programme in Occupational Therapy. In January, the Digicel Foundation donated US$14,815 to USC to retrofit a training lab for OT students in the programme. The new facility was officially unveiled on September 11 at the Maracas, St. Joseph campus.
The Digicel Foundation Occupational Therapy Simulation & Resource Lab is designed as a demo living space, equipped with specialized equipment to facilitate hands-on practical therapy for persons with disabilities. The Foundation continues to invest millions in programmes and initiatives that advance the lives of persons with disabilities. The partnership with USC promises to provide OT support to special needs schools, with OT masters students claiming practicum hours while delivering a well sought after service to this underserved community.
The Management and faculty of the University of the Southern Caribbean (USC) expressed their heartfelt thanks to the Digicel Foundation for the partnership. Sharing her thoughts at the opening ceremony, Dr. Wanda Chesney, Associate Provost of USC, conveyed her thanks and appreciation stating, “The collaborative efforts with the Foundation had only just begun. This initiative will have a far-reaching impact on educators and students focused on working with the special needs community.”
Currently, there is one Occupational Therapist employed in the public school system with only 26 registered occupational therapists, which highlights the need for this specialized profession. Desha Clifford, Chairperson of the Digicel Foundation commented, “This new partnership with the USC’s Occupational Therapy Department further complements the Foundation’s special needs portfolio, making our initiatives even more sustainable. There is a huge gap in affordable therapy-related services for persons with special needs, a gap the Foundation in its way is bridging with the help of all our stakeholders.”
In 2014, the Digicel Foundation implemented a Therapy Based Education Programme in 15 special needs schools throughout Trinidad and Tobago. The initiative was facilitated by the A&C Foundation, an Irish based therapy organisation, and included specialised equipment for the schools, training and development of personalised educational plans for students and parent engagement strategies to progress learning objectives. The USC partnership also built on this intervention with the placement of three practicum students at special education institutes and two other students who will use recent reports and findings from the Therapy-based Education Programme to inform their research.
The Foundation continues to find innovative strategies and collaborations with public and private sector to support the advancement of persons with special needs through education, sport, therapy and activities that foster inclusion.