Ms Danielle le Brasse (left) and Ms Jenna Saxby (student) intervene with client, Ms Smangele Mpathi who has a “spastic” hand.

Students Bring Occupational Therapy Closer to the Community

In collaboration with Durban Green Corridors, final-year Occupational Therapy students at UKZN offer wellness programmes, rehabilitation, developmental milestones and educational programmes at the Inanda Wilderness Park in Durban. All activities take place outdoors, enticing people to venture outside and enjoy being in nature.

This five-year community outreach project is spearheaded by Ms Chantal Christopher, an academic within the Discipline who believes that, ‘we need to take the University onto the streets to avoid the risk of being an ivory tower on the hill.’

The students use occupational therapy to promote health and well-being across generations, especially among the elderly and crèche/school going children. Six full-time site assistants maintain the park, and three youth mentors implement the programmes.

Qualified Occupational Therapist Ms Danielle Le Brasse, who is the site manager said, ‘I am passionate about making a difference in people’s lives and about physical and paediatric intervention and community-based rehabilitation. I am also interested in investigating how South Africa’s history has shaped our township communities and the role I could play in improving the quality of life. The Wilderness Park provides the platform to put these passions to work and see positive results.’

She said that, pre-lockdown, around 400 visitors visited the park each month, including school groups and groups of senior citizens. Individual sessions are offered to those with disabilities, stroke victims, amputees, and children with learning difficulties, and developmental delays.

COVID-19 stalled the programmes which will be back on track soon as park life returns to normal and they look forward to once again seeing older folk enjoying their specially designated area, dancing, gardening, chatting or simply appreciating nature seated on upcycled furniture made from donated pallets.

Youth mentors have been trained to work with the elderly and on health-related precautions. They run a dance exercise programme each week with 15 elderly clients from the nearby old age drop-in-centre.

The park is a pilot project for Durban Green Corridors and is supported by the eThekwini Municipality. Durban Green Corridors aims to expand this model to other areas around Durban alongside the many Green Spaces Projects already in existence.

Durban Green Corridors welcomes volunteers to work within its many programmes.

Words: Nombuso Dlamini

Photograph: Supplied