An Important Book for the Rights and Inclusion of Those Who are Marginalized: Occupational Therapy Without Borders: Learning from the Spirit of Survivors
Occupational Therapy Without Borders: Learning from the Spirit of Survivors is a major international endeavor, featuring over 60 contributors from clinical, educational and survivor perspectives. It is a rights-based approach that provides a snapshot of a whole movement that is sweeping through the profession. Through critically exploring occupational therapy’s professional concern with what people fundamentally ‘do’ to make their lives meaningful, the authors give practical examples that look beyond the narrow confines of the health and social care environment in which many of its members work. It directs a focus to improving the lives of the neediest people within society by working with whole communities, not just individuals.
ISBN 0 4430 7440 490 pages / Elsevier-Churchill Livingstone. Available through Amazon.com
Foreword by David Werner
In the decades I have worked with PROJIMO, a community-based rehabilitation program run by disabled villagers in western Mexico, scores of rehab professionals have visited as volunteers—including physiotherapists and occupational therapists—primarily from “developed” countries. Nearly all have come with a desire to help those in need. Yet for all their good will, they differ greatly in how they view the world and their role in it. Some more or less accept institutionalized unfairness; others want passionately to change it.
“Occupational Therapy without Borders” is an indispensable tool for anyone who sides with the underdog. It is a treasure chest for agents of change and community-based facilitators in every field related to equitable and sustainable development.
Some of the visiting therapists surround themselves in the cage of their professional discipline and pride themselves in not venturing outside it. So meticulously do they slice up their “patients” that the village rehabilitation workers have jokingly concluded that PTs serve their clients below their bellybutton and Ots above. You see, most of the PROJIMO team are themselves disabled. They tend to look at those they assist not so much as patients but as friends. The great OT/PT divide strikes them as unnatural, even dehumanizing. Like dissecting the human heart to doctor the ambiguities of love.
Fortunately, however, some visiting professionals are different. On finding themselves in a wilderness of over whelming needs and possibilities, they dare to step out of their cages. They don’t relate to just a fraction of a person, but the whole. They don’t only look at people’s disabilities, but also their possibilities. They don’t look at the individual in isolation, but in context of the family and community. As outsiders, they don’t pretend they have all the answers. Rather, they join their clients as partners and equals in the problem-solving process. They don’t just lament the poverty and limitations in the village, but build on the unique resources, both physical and social. Like a magic harp, they play on the threads that link the needs and potentials of the individual, the community and the world. The goal of such therapists is the well-being of all. Like Martin Luther King, they have a dream: an all-inclusive dream.
Occupational Therapy without Borders is written by a motley assortment of occupational therapists from many lands, with a spectrum of perspectives and experience. Yet what they share is this all-inclusive dream: people coming together to build a healthier more caring local and global community.
Yet, though they be dreamers, they are also pragmatic. They have a wealth of hands-on experience, helping people learn to cope with enormous difficulties in innovative, daring, yet very civilized (and civilizing) ways. They place the realization of an individual’s potential in the context of the health of humanity and the planet. No man, woman or child is an island.
While the milieu of this book is occupational therapy, its scope is, in every sense, universal. The same spirit of striving to transform suffering and isolation into something beautiful and whole should be applied to every healing profession—and to the quest for peace and thereby survival of our troubled species on this ailing planet.