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Occupational Therapists ‘give back’ to the community

Published Wednesday 1 Nov 2023

To celebrate Occupational Therapy (OT) Awareness Week, MHAIDS OTs spent time volunteering with their community partners.

Occupational Therapy focuses on what people find meaningful in their lives, and how they participate in activities that bring them a sense of routine, belonging, joy and meaning. Taking place 23-27 October, the theme of the 2023 Awareness Week was ‘Unity through community’, which celebrates OTs working together with groups and communities. 
At MHAIDS, Occupational Therapists decided to acknowledge the theme by spending some time volunteering with community partners, NGOs and community organisations across Wellington, the Hutt Valley, and Porirua. 21 Occupational Therapists, support workers and students volunteered their time with organisations like Riding for the Disabled, Upper Hutt Food Bank, and local soup kitchens. 
 “We found a few different options in different locations, so everybody could have the opportunity to find something that worked for them,” said Caroline Garbutt, who is Workfirst Coordinator with the Early Intervention Service.  
 This also means OTs can match to the work they are doing, with Caroline and her colleague Julia Fitzgerald volunteering at the Sisters of Compassion soup kitchen in Wellington along with student OTs Saxon and Juliane.  
“EIS has tāngata whaiora who use soup kitchens, so it was an opportunity to learn more about the work they do, and how we can support our clients to access the service,” said Caroline.  
 “In the Workfirst role we often support young people to volunteer, to develop their confidence after a first episode of psychosis, before they go back to university, school or work. To be able to experience volunteering ourselves is a great way to share that information with tāngata whaiora, and experience what they experience.”

Below: Saxon Mead, Juliane Wicks, Julia Fitzgerald and Caroline Garbutt.

OTs at Regional Forensic & Rehabilitation Service decided to volunteer their time at Riding for the Disabled

“They have been good to our service over the past few years, providing an opportunity for our people to volunteer,” said Rachel Baker. “It has formed a lovely relationship - one we would love to continue to strengthen.  
“We had to kick off our work shoes and replace with gumboots to kick horse poo around on some very steep hills, which lead some team members ending up in the mud!”  

Below L-R: Molly Gower, Leah Curran, Margo Brown, Constance Marshall-Waiwiri, Rachel Baker, Frazer Williams, Simonne, Maria Ah Kuoi.

Kaiwhakaora Ngangahau (Occupational Therapists) at Te Kākano o te Aroha (Māori CAMHS) also got their hands dirty volunteering with Te Rito Gardens in Porirua. The gardens are part of Tātou Development Trust, which aims to give people an opportunity to learn the life skills of growing food and acquiring an income in a sustainable way. 

“Spending the morning at Te Rito enabled us to learn more about an amazing resource in our community which has a long history of supporting our MHAIDS tangata whaiora in engaging with Te Taiao, building skills and developing routines useful in all aspects of life,” said Melissa Lamond. 
“We felt we were ‘walking our Occupational Therapist talk’ as we weeded the cascade area, engaging in the 5 Ways to Wellbeing: Connect, give, take notice, keep learning and be active!” 

Below: Charlie and Melissa.

Occupational Therapy Professional Lead Gale Cull volunteered at her local food bank in Upper Hutt.  
“The group of people were very welcoming. We put together and gave out 15 food parcels for the morning. When no more people were waiting for food, we took a break and talked about occupational therapy and why I had joined them for the morning. We hope to continue the renewed connection with this valued community service.”