Kenyan Diaspora receive national recognition in Ireland for best project

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Kenyan Diaspora receive national recognition in Ireland for best projectKenyan Diaspora receive national recognition in Ireland for best project

In 2014 Wanjiru Waweru-Kihara, Clinical Specialist in Paediatric Occupational Therapy for Louth Disability Services, felt there was a gap missing for summer camps that were accessible to children in wheelchairs. Here, she explains how Family Summer Wheelchair Camps, Co Louth, has helped to encourage children to enjoy life, have fun and feel more independent in their wheelchair use

In our local community, there are many organisations that offer children summer camps, but most of them are not suitable or the facilities are not accessible for children in wheelchairs,” explains Wanjiru. “Child wheelchair-users receive an occupational therapy service but this can be dreary, especially if provided in the same format and facility.

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“Myself and two colleagues, Cathriona Reilly and Siobhan McGee sought to find creative ways of revitalising the service by injecting a fun-filled way of meeting clinical goals and adopting a family-centred approach, a primary vision of the HSE Progressing Disability Services for Children and Young People programme.

We wanted the camp to give these children ownership, where they feel it’s their camp, and also include their families, boost their self-esteem and provide a team building experience.” SUPPORT After conducting a survey around the area and realising that parents of wheelchair users were on board with the idea, Wanjiru, Cathriona and Siobhan approached the local church (Drogheda Presbyterian Church) who kindly allowed them to use their facilities, providing access to a spacious hall, changing room, toilet and kitchen. The Family Summer Wheelchair Camp is held for four full days for independent wheelchair users (manual and powered) aged 4-18 years old and their families, and the daily attendance ranges from 35-45 participants. Activities include wheelchair basketball, wheelchair dancing, Javelin, wheelchair races and many more. The camp team has now expanded to include other members of the MDT (multidisciplinary) team, such as a physiotherapist, social workers and mobility service managers. Go Kids Go!, a UK-based charity organization, also comes to helps teach children wheelchair skills, while adult wheelchair users, Nicola McDonell, Patrick McNeary & Owen Mullen, regularly visit to share their own experiences with the children, to motivate and inspire them. Wanjiru says: “Our main goals are to teach wheelchair activities that lead to a healthy lifestyle and physical fitness; teach daily living skills such as cooking, shopping, kitchen skills; develop and enhance wheelchair-use skills such

as wheelchair control; and allow children to have fun and enjoy being part of activities in the community. “It is so important that the child’s parents and siblings partake in the wheelchair activities as this gives them an understanding of their child and better appreciation of the frustrations and the challenges the wheelchair users may feel. It’s a level playing field – everyone’s playing the same game from the same perspective.”

JOY AND LAUGHTER

Wanjiru says since beginning the project, the team have observed increased activity participation, mastering of independence skills, increased self-esteem, improved use of wheelchairs and, not to mention, an increased interest in wheelchair sports in the area in which with the help of Irish Wheelchair Association, the parents have organized a wheelchair basketball team.

“The opportunity to make a child in a wheelchair simply feel and be a child, by participation in childhood occupations, is overwhelmingly good. To be able to create an environment in which a child is intrinsically motivated to learn even the most challenging skills gives me the greatest job satisfaction. One father told me his family have never been able to go on a family holiday and the camp made it feel like one. Another father said he always envied other dads who play with their children and now treasures the first time he has ever been able to play with his child – this feedback gives me joy.

“To be shortlisted to the final seven projects in the HSE Service Excellence Awards is surreal and a big achievement in itself. I feel like we have already won because we are able to showcase what we do and hopefully people in other regions who don’t have these kinds of facilities will be spurred into replicating our idea on a national level – that would be the greatest achievement of all.

Irish Independent Newspaper

Wanjiru Waweru-Kihara1

Wanjiru Waweru-Kihara2

Wanjiru Waweru-Kihara4

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Kenyan Diaspora receive national recognition in Ireland for best project

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