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  • : The Handimachal Programme for disabled children, Kullu, India
  • The Handimachal Programme for disabled children, Kullu, India
  • : In the (blue) House of the Himalayas, in Kullu (Himachal Pradesh, India), discover and follow the progress of the Handimachal project for disabled children.
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October 11 2010 2 11 /10 /October /2010 17:48

As Severine wrote in her last post, we are lucky to have in our team an additional OT volunteer, Catriona Helliwell, who will work together with Severine until mid-December, then on her own until mid-March 2011.  While Severine and Emma are travelling in Rajasthan for a few days, Catriona is experiencing her new life in Kullu with the rest of the Handimachal team and with our young patients.  Below are her first impressions - thank you Catriona for being with us!


Having given up a permanent Paediatric OT post in Scotland to volunteer with Handimachal I was anxious to ensure that my time would be put to good use – after just a few weeks within the Unit I’m certain that this will be the case!


My time here is being divided between work within the Unit and Nav-Chetna, a local school for children with a range of profound learning disabilities.  Amid the inevitable challenges posed by language barriers, culturally different approaches to practice, and limited resources I’m happily settling into working life in Kullu and am excited by the months to come.  Kullu is a magical town perched along the banks of the river, with lush woodland all around.  Missed by the majority of tourists, it’s bustling with a more traditional working lifestyle with ample markets and alleyways to explore on days off!


Developing fine motor skills 


Developing fine motor skills
(nice to see Kartik is back - Dominique)


I’m deeply impressed by the work that is being carried out in the Unit and am excited by the developments we hope to make over the next six months.  When I applied to volunteer with Handimachal I thought I could contribute to the organization by using my experiences of working in Paediatrics in the UK, to provide therapy cover until a permanent local OT can be found.  However, having now worked for a few weeks within the Unit I hope to be able make a longer lasting contribution through helping to develop the structure of the work carried out, further increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of the therapy provided. 


Activities to develop bilateral integration

Activities to develop bilateral integration
(Atharav !)


Through encouraging daily recording of a child’s progress within therapy sessions we hope to be able to provide greater justification for the resources required.  By collaboratively setting very specific goals with families on a regular basis we hope to increase parental involvement within therapy sessions.  This should subsequently increase in the application of recommended strategies within the home environment, and lead to greater improvements in the child’s functional ability and quality of life. 


Home Visits - encouraging active extension of upper limbs

Home Visits - encouraging active extension of upper limbs
(Sonali seems happy!)


Our weekly home-visits to villages throughout the Kullu valley have certainly been an eye-opening experience.  Children who have disabilities too profound to enable them to access the local schools are generally left alone at home through the day while their families are out working in the fields.  This poses significant challenges to the provision of therapy as, without the time meet basic needs of personal care, families are frequently unable to make time for passive stretching or encouraging active engagement in appropriate activities.  Our role here is therefore, predominantly an educatory one, demonstrating to families the crucial importance of stretching out their child’s ever tightening limbs to reduce the likelihood of contractures occurring.  Contractures which further increase the child’s disability and lesson their ability to engage in daily activities such as independent feeding or reaching and grasping for objects around them.


Our weekly visits to families in the outlying villages really highlighted to me just how many other families there are who require therapeutic input, but are unable to access the Unit.  In light of this I’m keen to try to explore the possibilities of establishing a ‘mobile/ transient clinic’ over the coming months, in locations more accessible to those in need.


Encouraging engagement in activities for a child deprived o

Encouraging engagement in activities
for a child deprived of any stimulation at home

(Prakash Tapa, wearing such a white shirt today!)


Many ideas, which can hopefully put to use to further develop the impressive work that is already being carried out within the Handimachal therapy Unit in Kullu.  Hopefully the coming months won’t fly away from me too quickly!!


Catriona Helliwell

Paediatric Occupational Therapist


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Evert 10/17/2010 16:07

Wow, encouraging start Catriona. Welcome to the HKTU, I'm sure you'll be able to contribute to longer-lasting developments. And also for me: happy to see Kaartik is back! Good luck and lots of
pleasure in Kullu!

first volunteer from the Netherlands