“The doctors and surgeons don’t check if the person can get to the toilet, or even into their house after an amputation – but this is where we come in. “
The position of Council Member for International Affairs for the World Federation of Occupational Therapists (WFOT) is coming up for election. If you are interested put your nomination forward! If you want any further information or wish to talk about the position please contact me – Camilla Cox firstname.lastname@example.org.
Why nominate? During my three and half years in Trinidad and Tobago my clinical work focused on mental health, pediatrics and some physical dysfunction at the Scarborough Regional Government hospital. Many wonderful things came of this time in my life and the learning I got about associations. Their invaluable function and purpose quite frankly changed my life. My passion for my profession grew tremendously because you experience more closely what happens when occupational therapy does not exist. It allowed me to see more clearly why the profession had been born. The doctors and surgeons don’t check if the person can get to the toilet, or even into their house after an amputation – but this is where we come in. How that person is now going to live and have meaning is essential to consider.
Since 2008 I had held positions within UK associations and in Trinidad and Tobago. Before this I was a College of Occupational Therapists (COT) member and received my news and Journal and had attended an EOTHE conference, but knew little else about the associations, how they work and why they are so important.
In 2008 I went to my first Trinidad and Tobago Occupational Therapy Association (TTOTA) meeting. I did not really have a clue what any one was talking about. Getting to the meeting in itself was an adventure – up at 4am to take the boat from Tobago to Trinidad and being introduced to my fellow OT’s in Dr. Lesley Garcia’s (OT in T&T) office/rehabilitation clinic.
By November 2009 I was the Caribbean Delegate to our World Federation of Occupational Therapists. This led me to Santiago, Chile in 2010 with Dr Garcia to represent the Caribbean at the WFOT 38th Council meeting. This was the first time the Caribbean had been represented in person at a WFOT council meeting. At this meeting we put in the bid to host the Interim Executive Management Meeting (IEMM) for the following May in Trinidad and Tobago, on behalf of the ACOT. We won – news we received on my birthday, what a gift!
I was nervous as heck to be sitting round that table with a microphone and a Trinidad and Tobago flag, trying to follow all the minutes and discussions – having my eyes and mind opened up to the breadth and extent of the OT profession and what it means to have WFOT as our global voice. With a good mentor and very much supported by Sue Baptiste and Sandra Bressler and all the amazing delegates from member organisations it was a rich and very rewarding experience.
With 10 of the WFOT executives on their way to T&T it was time to get planning. For the next year we at TTOTA and ACOT created a programme of events that would make the best of having these 10 prestigious OT’s from our global body in the country. This programme was named ‘A new frontier of OT in the Caribbean’.
I now understand why associations are so vital, and why the work of thousands of volunteers globally running these associations is remarkable. The united voice speaks volumes, a place to capture the work, to have a global position statement, to have accreditation and minimum standards, to have a partnership with the WHO where we can influence policy top down.
To have promotional material sent out from your local body to promote your profession locally – we are all experts in describing OT but don’t you find we are having to do it less and less? More often now than 15 years ago when I joined the profession I don’t hear ‘what is that?’ more often I hear ‘Oh, we had a wonderful OT when my mum was sick’ or ‘I thought about training to be an OT’ or ‘I know a bit but tell me more’ or ‘it’s different from occupational health right’? We may sometimes feel very distant from our profession like they are not really doing anything for us but I can assure you – they are.
In March 2012 it was time to return home. The College of Occupational Therapists council member position for International Affairs, UK delegate to WFOT, was seeking nominations. I wrote my first manifesto and nervously sent it in, wondering if I knew enough, if I could manage the work alongside a full time paid job, what value I would bring, if I was the right person for the position – and what if I actually got it!
There are of course times when I would have rather been out dancing, running or having dinner with friends rather than reading the College of Occupational Therapists financial forecast. What I have come to appreciate is just what an honor it is to sit on council. To work with such a dedicated, passionate, knowledgeable and motivated group of people who work towards a shared goal of driving the profession forward in a changing world. Sitting on council has broadened my horizons, it has connected me and challenged me, it has kept me increasingly focused and engaged and for this I am grateful. I hope that in this position I have served you well and represented our organization in the high esteem it deserves.
I am now in my fourth year of the position. I’ve attended all COT council meetings and four COT conferences, the 2nd International AHP conference, the WFOT 31st council meeting and 16th International Congress in Japan, several OT frontier meetings, and we have twice yearly International Working Group meetings at COT. I have done a keynote address at Coventry University and many articles, reports, and news updates for OTNews, WFOT bulletin and council meetings. I have presented at the WFOT conference, chaired sessions at COT and hosted a fringe meeting at COT conference 2013 relating to international affairs. If you are interested put your nomination forward!