Saturday, February 3, 2018 – “Pre-Departure Thoughts” by Susan Czyzo

Photo from last year’s Rehab Trip

Kenya with A Better World Canada: February 2018
Pre-Departure Thoughts

By Susan Czyzo, MScPT

After graduating from the University of Toronto’s Physical Therapy program a decade ago, I slid into Toronto’s private practice world within a couple months. A few years down the track, I added clinical Pilates to my repertoire, and more recently took my practice on the road to explore physiotherapy, and life, Down Under. With a passion for the outdoors, sport of all kinds, and a holistic lifestyle, injury prevention and exercise promotion have been the driving forces of my career thus far.

I’m not entirely certain when the seed for a Global Health experience was planted but it has been steadily growing in the background for several years now. Listening to A Global Physio podcast in the second half of 2017, I learned of A Better World Canada and their regular rehabilitation trips to Kenya. I decided to investigate a little deeper to see if this was the right time to pursue a trip of this type. Turns out it is – I will be arriving in Kenya with the rest of the group on February 12th.

I enjoy physiotherapy for the opportunity to empower people on a daily basis – using guidance and education to help them help themselves. Occasionally, working in private practice in the Western world can feel like working in a bubble. It’s easy to rely on fancy equipment, acupuncture needles of all sizes and thicknesses, or complex exercises to “fix” the “injuries” that come through the door. I imagine that stripping these resources away from my reach, as will be the case on this trip, will help bring the essence of physiotherapy back to the forefront of my practice.

The population we will be working with in Kenya, primarily children with disabilities, will immediately push me out of my comfort zone as it is far removed from the ambulatory orthopaedic clientele I encounter day to day. Nevertheless, I feel excited more than apprehensive. Travelling to Africa for the first time, I’m looking forward to getting a glimpse into the way of life of a select few rural Kenyan communities. At the same time, I acknowledge the challenge of working with a culture very different to my own. I often wonder to what extent physical disability is accepted in these communities, and what people’s attitudes towards rehabilitation are.

Alongside the other group members, I plan to listen to the needs and concerns of the families I will come in contact with, and assist them through collaborative problem solving. I can only hope that they can learn even half as much from me as I anticipate learning from them. The same applies to the other travellers I will be getting to know over the two weeks.

I’m well aware that a two week trip of this type does not offer much time for finding a comfort zone. Daily reflection may be key to enhancing efficiency and making the most of our short time in this part of the world. Another long-standing concern of mine with participating in a Global Health experience has to do with imposing Western ways and beliefs onto local communities. As much as I’m conscious of not taking this approach, I anticipate a few hiccups, especially in the first few days. Being a well-travelled individual, I expect the road won’t be a smooth one but here’s to a most memorable Global Health journey.