This weeks charity spotlight is Imprint Hope, an organization in Uganda run by one of my friends and colleagues, Clare Byrne. Clare always has the warmest hugs, the craziest, out of the box ideas, and her free spirit makes me giggle like a child. God Bless you, Clare, for creating Imprint Hope to help children with disabilities and their families. You are such an inspiration! Read our dialogue below to learn more about Imprint Hope.
Q. Clare, we sat near each other for 3 years at Seton Hall University studying Occupational Therapy, both passed our state boards and became Occupational Therapists – what led you to Uganda and ultimately starting Imprint Hope?
A. I always wondered what happened to children with disabilities in other countries who were not blessed with social, medical and rehabilitative services. I wondered how children and families got by without Early Intervention; I wondered what hospitals were like; I wondered how children with disabilities were treated in other countries. When I was studying for my boards, I applied for jobs all over the world, but I also applied for a year-long volunteer experience through an organization called, Catholic Medical Mission Board (CMMB). CMMB is a non-profit organization that sends medical professionals all over the world. After graduating from Seton Hall University in 2012, I worked in Newark, New Jersey, USA for 6 months and then was sent to Uganda in 2013 through CMMB.
During my year of volunteer work with CMMB, I worked at an orphanage with over 300 children with disabilities. Being the only medical professional with the most severely disabled population of children I’ve ever seen was overwhelming, however the most challenging part apart that year of volunteer work was learning that 85% of the children at that orphanage actually had biological parents. These family members abandoned their child with a disability because they were overwhelmed by the challenge of taking care of a child with a disability with no social or rehabilitative services. Thus the dream to launch Imprint Hope began.
Q. What is Imprint Hope? What made you start this organization?
A. Founded in 2016 in Uganda, East Africa, Imprint Hope envisions a world where all children with disabilities are appreciated for their unique talents and provided an opportunity to actualize their full potential. The organization works to eliminate the neglect, abuse, abandonment, and death of children with disabilities in Uganda by educating communities on childhood disability, providing medical and rehabilitative services to the children affected and educating and empowering caretakers to care for their child and earn a living wage for their families. In doing so, Imprint Hope strives to raise awareness, break down barriers, and overcome the stigma that children with disabilities face on a daily basis.
To support and encourage families of children with disabilities, Imprint Hope’s team – social workers, a physical and occupational therapist, and a human rights advocate – identify and meet with families coming from rural areas of Central Uganda. The families who are invited to join Imprint Hope’s program begin a journey of discovery, enlightenment, and hope.
During the live-in 6-week program, Imprint Hope children receive daily physical and occupational therapy, orthopedic equipment and nutritional and medical support. While their child is being cared for, Imprint Hope families embark on a journey of their own, participating in daily classes on the types and causes of disability, proper hygiene, parenting techniques, and human rights of children with disabilities. In addition to learning about their child’s disability, families participate in vocational training in agriculture and tailoring to be better equipped to pay for their child’s medical expenses upon their return home.
Upon discharge from the program, Imprint Hope’s team conduct regular follow-up with children and their families at home, providing further education, equipment, and support.
Q. Tell us a little about yourself – what do you like to do for fun? What do you miss about living in New Jersey, USA?
A. My heart always yearns for adventure. Moving and living in a third world country has drastically shifted my daily routine, however, I still get up with the sun and go for a run down African dirt roads, do yoga and bake incessantly. My favorite parts of a day are interacting with the families at our center and spending quality time with two little boys I’ve adopted. Watching children grow, learn, laugh and develop for the first time in their life is a beautiful thing to see every day.
New Jersey will always have my heart because of my family. I’ve learned from living in Africa that home is where your family resides. I miss them so much and I hope for the day I can see them again!!
Q. What is a typical day life for you at Imprint Hope? What are the living conditions? Who else do you work with?
A. A “typical day” at Imprint Hope is watching the sun rise over the Nile River, getting my two adopted boys ready for school, and meeting with Imprint Hope staff members to plan for the day. I work with a Ugandan Physical Therapist all day in the therapy room. We provide one hour of individualized therapy to each child at our center during that day. This is where we work with the mothers and show them exercises to do with their child throughout the day and educate them on their child’s condition.
Along with a Ugandan Physical Therapist, Imprint Hope’s Staff includes a social worker, who provides an hour of counseling to the families every day. A Ugandan Human Rights Advocate, who teaches our families about the human rights of children with disabilities in Uganda. A cook, who prepares all of the food for the families. As well as a Day Guard, Night Guard, and various part-time teachers on nutrition, hygiene, parenting, disability, agriculture, tailoring, and business development.
Q. How do I get involved with Imprint Hope?
A. The motto of Imprint Hope from the launch is “it takes a village.” This means that we need a village in Uganda and a village in America. It was an abundant privilege
to grow up in America and not have to worry about where the next meal or set of clothing was coming from. However, I’ve learned from living in Uganda that this is not the reality for people in other countries of the world. If we are going to “imprint” a mark in Uganda we all need to work together and pool resources to help these desperate.
Any help in the realm of supplies for the center, monetary support or volunteer work over here in Uganda would be so transformative for the mission at large and a tremendous blessing to the families and children we serve.
Q. What do you need the most help with from Realm of Vibes readers?
A. If Imprint Hope’s Mission tugs at anyone’s heartstrings, please spread the word about how children with disabilities are living in other countries. Please contact me: email@example.com and ask how you can get further involved. Through spreading awareness and educating people, I know we can transform the lives of so many families in Uganda. #Ittakesavillage
Q. Give Realm of Vibes readers some final thoughts…
A. Children with disabilities are very special souls to me. Witnessing firsthand the disparity, rejection and challenges children with disabilities in Uganda experience on a daily basis compels my heart to action. Witnessing their joy, perseverance, and compassion they exemplify to everyone has transformed my outlook on life. I know in life we receive so we can go. We feel loved so we can love. We witness hope so we can be beacons of hope. These moments have given me renewed purpose in life and it is too good of a gift not to share with others.
If you have a non-profit organization that you would like featured on Realm of Vibes, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
My BP was 136/98. I couldn’t help the tears from streaming down my face. It happened so quickly. It was doing something I have done over a hundred times a day the past 4.5 years. When I stood up from readjusting a wheelchair to affix the leg rest on the hinges, a sharp, intense pain overcame my left glute and back. I could barely walk. I couldn’t sit. My mom shuttled me to the nearest urgent care to seek medical attention. My diagnosis is a severe lumbar strain. I injured my butt and my back. My husband had to take off work and help me don my underwear, pants, socks and shoes. My mom brought me food and picked up my medication. I went from independent to dependent quicker than the blink of an eye. Numerous pain killers, muscle relaxers, steroids, and OTC medications later, I was walking into the physical therapy outpatient clinic for my evaluation. But that day, I was not the therapist, I was the patient.
They always say, healthcare professionals make the worst patients. We challenge everything. We know what to say, what not to say, and exactly how you are going to document our session. It is a humbling experience to be on the other side of the coin. I went from giving orders to following them, and relying on the physical therapist to be my cheerleader to help me get through my sessions. I depended on them for pain relief and counted on them to help me return to work. The role of being a patient has allowed me to document some of my personal experiences to take back to the clinic:
- 3 sets of 10 repetitions
“Is that always the magic number?” my patient would always ask me as I would hand them a weighted dowel and demonstrate the movement I wanted them to complete. Wow. Who knew 3 sets of 10 reps of an exercise with a lumbar strain would be difficult? Most of the exercises, I would complete 2 sets of 10 reps, and if I felt good, I would do a third. Here I am, a healthy, fit woman having trouble completing exercises. My butt and back felt as if they were on fire. I had to breathe through the pain and take rest breaks. 3 sets of 10 repetitions is not always the magic number.
- Patient Care & Quality
Healthcare is a hot topic. Rules and regulations increase every year. Productivity demands for therapists are often unattainable and fostered by big businesses that want to shuttle patients in and out of the clinic like cattle. Therapists that can work in outpatient clinics can treat 4-5 people an hour. I try to schedule myself when they are less booked and could provide undivided attention. Some people, like me, need manual techniques (stretching, joint mobilizations, etc.), in which you would have to keep your other patients working simultaneously. I can see how it can be frustrating for the patient as they are getting split time, and overwhelming for the therapist dealing with multiple people with varying needs. When a patient or a therapist, having patience is a virtue.
- Pain is not a Joke
Holy hell. If my patient tells me they are in pain, now I really feel for them. As a clinician, I am always mindful of pain, but now I truly understand what it is like to be in therapy and have pain. When I walked into my PT evaluation, my butt and back pain was an 8/10. It hurt to transition between sitting and standing and sitting to laying down. I was walking slowly and carefully. I was barely sleeping and the prescription Naproxen wasn’t helping. Everything was aggravated; me, my butt, my back, my attitude. Pain impacts daily life. Having pain has taught me to be more aware of the pain my patients experience during their therapy session.
- Home Exercise Program Compliance
I received 5 exercises for my core, back, and legs on the first day of physical therapy. I was instructed on each exercise and told to perform them 2x a day (1x a day on my PT days). I do them when I wake up in the AM, and before I go to bed in the evening. They are time consuming and take diligence, planning, and time management to complete. As a therapist, I give my patients home exercises to help with his/her joint mobility, strength, endurance, and to help reduce any stiffness before he/she comes to therapy. As a patient, a home exercise program feels like a nuisance, even though it makes me feel better and results in less pain.
One of the main reasons I became a therapist is because I needed physical therapy to recover from a meniscus tear in my right knee. After being exposed to the clinic, I signed up for observation hours with an occupational therapist. One of my fondest memories was watching an OT teach a young child in a wheelchair how to open a door and negotiate through the threshold. I wanted to help people, too. I am now the one being helped. I try to turn bad fortune into positive experiences. Being the patient has given me insight regarding workload, pain, quality care, and home exercise programs. It has helped me realize the importance of my profession and the impact it makes in people’s lives. Now, excuse me, but I need to go do my home exercise program…
PS. Due to this injury, our Lake Placid trip was postponed.