Last November, TalkTools sponsored a mission trip to Ukraine made by five Curtin University Health Sciences (Australia) Alumni, through the program “Go Global.” They trained parents of children with Speech Therapy and Occupational Therapy needs, partly using products donated by TalkTools. Here is how it went, in their own words.

Photographs from left to right:

  1. Speech Therapist Shelby Walquist introduces TalkTools to the staff at Dzherelo Centre, Lviv, Ukraine.
  2. Shelby trouble shooting feeding issues with a child at the Dzherelo Centre.
  3. The Alumni Team at the Dzherelo Centre, from left to right: Shelby Walquist (Speech), Kirrily Manning (Program Coordinator/OT), Simone Bunter (OT), Sarah Marchetti (OT) and Emma McKinley (Speech).

“From 2008-2013 over 80 allied health students visited Ukraine as part of the Curtin University “Go Global” student clinical placement program.  The program was suspended and later disbanded in 2014 when Ukraine became more known internationally for all the wrong reasons.  No one could have predicted so many lives would be impacted by the subsequent Russian invasion, including those of thousands of babies and children abandoned in Ukraine’s many orphanages.

However something gets under your skin when you work with such beautiful children and dedicated yet desperate carers that when Go Global Program Coordinator, Kirrily Manning, decided to return, her heart was not the only one moved to find a way to keep the work alive.  She was joined in November 2015 by four Curtin Alumni, two Speech Therapists and two Occupational Therapists.  Taking annual leave and paying their own expenses, these dedicated young women spent a week working at Dzherelo Centre, Lviv.

At the request of Dzherelo senior therapists, a two-day staff training workshop was provided in the development of the function of feeding, as well as assessing feeding difficulties and tailoring intervention strategies. In addition, a half-day workshop for parents was provided.  Speech Therapist Shelby Walquist delivered the training with technical and moral support from colleague Emma McKinley.  Occupational Therapists Simone Bunter and Sarah Marchetti attended the sessions, providing advice about supportive feeding equipment and promoting and explaining a profession that does not yet exist in Ukraine.

The staff at the centre responded so well to the new information provided. There were opportunities throughout the training to trouble shoot particular clients and situations. Through these discussions it was found that most of the students were still performing a suckle. Shelby discussed how staff could use different equipment and exercises from TalkTools to turn mealtimes into therapy to support the children in developing their oromotor skills. All of the children that the Alumni had an opportunity to work with required support with the strength and coordination of their jaw. Chewy Tubes with the pre-feeding chewy hierarchy were trialed successfully and the team is excited to hear how the students are going over the next few months.

In addition, collegial meetings were held with The Lviv Catholic University, Polytechnic University and Military Hospital.

The team learnt so much and gained valuable experience. They are now busy discussing the possibility of another trip for 2016 when one hopes the conflict has resolved to the point where they could also return to orphanages in the East of Ukraine.

A special thanks to TalkTools for their generous donation of equipment which made such an incredible difference in the lives of the children at the Centre. Thank you!”

~ Shelby Ellen Walquist

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