Abi Clark – My Story

Having always had a keen interest for humanitarian work, I wanted to involve myself with this area of physiotherapy having recently qualified. Whilst being a member of ADAPT, I was given the opportunity to spend some time working with ‘World Hope International’ in Sierra Leone, through the working relationships I had built. More specifically, I got involved in the ‘Engage the Children (ETC) Programme’ led by physiotherapist Anna Vines. In total, I was living in Freetown for three months, all the while gaining invaluable experience in the field of Global Health, especially as this was my first time working in this area.

I spent time working in a range of both clinic and community settings treating children with disabilities in Freetown and also occasionally up-country. The work I undertook involved treating children through exercises, distributing handmade equipment to aid positioning, and providing education to both families and communities to try and reduce the stigma surrounding disabilities. During my stay I was lucky enough to be involved in the ETC annual beach outing where we brought all of our families together to celebrate disability in an open and supportive environment.

Personally, this trip was about gaining first-hand experience in the Global Health world to hopefully pursue this area of work in the future. In addition to this, I wanted to be involved in Paediatric Physiotherapy, with it being a keen area of interest for me. Experience is what I desired and experience is what I got! From my first day, I was welcomed into the team and got myself stuck in with the work at hand, which allowed me to not only build my competencies in clinical skills but also my confidence in working in settings with limited health resources and infrastructure.

During my time I definitely encountered some challenges; one of the main ones was learning how to adapt according to the surroundings. For example, on many of our home visits equipment, toys, and resources were all limited, meaning that I had to be adapt in my treatment methods. Another challenge was the language barrier, the main language spoken in Sierra Leone is Krio. One of the biggest highlights for me from my entire stay, was actually becoming more confident in speaking Krio, partially in clinic. Speaking Krio to patients and their families made me feel like I was able to improve on my communication and quality of treatment.

I was able to build meaningful relationships with patients and colleagues which only furthered my passion for this area of work and made me feel genuinely fulfilled in the job I was doing.

My future plan following on from this experience is to gain a job completing Band 5 rotations in the UK for the NHS. I want to build my skills and competencies, to allow me to fully equip myself for more roles in Humanitarian and Global Health work in the future. Of course, I will continue to be a member of ADAPT to ensure I keep up to date with Global Health affairs and learn through frequent webinars and working relationships.

I think if I were to give any advice or take-home points, I would say that if you are interested in this type of work there are opportunities around if you are willing to look and find them. I would urge anyone who is interested to seek more information through ADAPT and to also reach out to other physios who have competed similar work.