Splinting Clinic Shines Light on Challenges to Serve Special Needs Youth in Jamaica

Our vision that every disabled child in the Caribbean leads a fulfilling life is no small undertaking, yet we believe that every step forward is one that creates impact. 

We were excited to spend our time with a group of 15 Jamaican medical professionals during our recent volunteer week on the island (read more about our trip and impact here), and we agreed wholeheartedly with volunteer Mary Devadas when she said: “It was a wonderful experience.”

Yet, the reality of this journey also included first-hand experience about the challenges that exist to serving these youth in need, highlighting the lack of resources and knowledge gap our programs aim to overcome. 

“After visiting the small and cramped orthotic clinic, we could see that limited space and older buildings are what is available for treatment,” said volunteer Debby Schwartz,  a product and educational specialist for Orfit Industries America. “There is a severe lack of equipment for rehabilitation and a lack of supplies.”

Volunteer Clover Hutchinson, Assistant Professor in the Department of Occupational Therapy at the School of Health Sciences and Professional Programs of York College, said overall she noticed a lack of understanding about the depth of what Occupational Therapists do, and that gap in occupation-based interventions means that many children likely have unattended developmental needs.

This is exactly why our Interdisciplinary Team Training Series exists, to bring more education to therapists on the island! We were happy to provide that experience through our splinting workshop during this mission trip. 

“One memory that stands out is how eager they were to learn,” Mary said. “They were excited about using the thermoplastics and picking our brains about other interventions to apply to their patients.”

As part of this clinic, Smile A While Foundation brought enough donated material to make about 200 custom orthotic splints! While this new knowledge and those donated supplies with certainly have an impact, this won’t be ever-lasting – and more supplies will be desperately needed.

Here’s what one Jamaica-based therapist who participated in the workshop said:

“These new items will definitely help by reducing time to make splints and I also like the fact that they can be reused once a child has upgraded from a splint. It should overall help with the functionality and aesthetics of my patients. Unfortunately, I foresee, There may be some challenges in getting these materials through the government once the donations are exhausted, due to costs of the materials.”

Can You Help?

Donate today to support shipping and other costs related to sending splinting materials to Jamaica to help special needs children.