In December, Larry J. Shapiro, MD, Executive Vice Chancellor for Medical Affairs and Dean, Washington University School of Medicine, introduced a website to recognize alumni giving back to communities around the world. Emily Wallace ‘10, OTD, OTR/L, was one of six alumni featured.
In the Zhytomyr region of Ukraine, many people with special needs live isolated from their communities and the routines of day-to-day life. Working with the indigenously run Mission to Ukraine (through U.S.-based Helmer Global Initiatives), Emily Wallace, OTD ‘10, OTR/L, is developing a program there to bring hope to people with disabilities and those who care for them. It is a challenging job in a country where occupational therapy is not a recognized profession.
“Most children with disabilities are never given the opportunity to succeed in meaningful activities,” she says. Many don’t leave their homes; they haven’t been taught social skills — how to set the table, how to feed themselves, or how to dress. With Mission to Ukraine, Wallace is building a sustainable framework of outpatient care for adolescents and young adults with disabilities. She is also developing a long-term program at an orphanage for boys with disabilities. And by building relationships with community organizations, she hopes to change social attitudes toward people with disabilities.
“I’m drawn to helping people who typical society looks at as not having a lot of worth,” says Wallace, whose brother has Down syndrome. “I really have a heart for those who others may underestimate.” Wallace’s work in Ukraine concludes in September 2013. She is already extending her expertise to Kenya, developing a model of services for a new orphanage in Nairobi. “Sustainability is my biggest goal,” she says. “In Zhytomyr, I’m putting specific measures in place to ensure the program will be implemented on a long-term basis even without my oversight.”
Visit Emily’s blog at http://keeping-things-whole.blogspot.com/ to read more about her work and travels!
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