In the UK is a small charity which aims to help transform the lives of disadvantaged physically disabled Mexican children. Its name is MEDiCT. It is also the nominated charity of leading special seating manufacturer and supplier Specialised Orthotic Services, known as SOS, which is based in Tutbury, Staffordshire. It is a likely alliance, but how did the two come to work so closely together and what can SOS offer therapists in Mexico? Here Gordon McQuilton, MD and founder of SOS explains:
“I attended a conference about six years ago where I met Sarah Davies, a physiotherapist who had been instrumental in starting MEDiCT. I saw a poster presentation on the charity and its work and it was something I really felt SOS should get involved with. MEDiCT’s goal is to support a large charitable institute in Monterrey, north east of Mexico, called Nuevo Amanecer which translated means New Dawn. The institute treats and educates hundreds of disabled children. It also provides special wheelchairs and other vital equipment to help the children live as normal a life as possible as well as give expert training for therapists.
“When I learned more about the nature of the charity I felt there was a natural alliance between their aims and the SOS business. After an introduction we felt we could work well together and Sarah explained how the charity could always make use of disused wheelchairs and other equipment which could be adapted for use by the children that needed it in Mexico.
“In 2007 we funded the shipment of a container of equipment to Mexico. This was equipment that was still fully functioning but there was no longer a use for so, rather than let it go to waste I was sure Nuevo Amanacer could make use of it. We still send containers of equipment to them approximately twice a year and this is a fantastic resource for them in their work.
“Even though we’re providing equipment, when it gets to Mexico it still needs adapting to make it absolutely right for each child’s individual needs. We know that putting the child in exactly the right chair from an early age helps their physical development as well as their overall wellbeing. So we’ve also helped finance a project to help develop their workshop so they can not only adapt what’s been donated, but also manufacture their own specialised seating. The workshop is at the Children’s Centre in Mexico and they’ve used the monies to buy new equipment such as tools as well as air conditioning to make the working environment more comfortable and productive. So far, SOS has given £30,000 to the project. Having a workshop means they have the means to help even more children.
“If we take the Chinese proverb give a man a fish and he’ll feed himself for a day, teach a man to fish and he’ll eat for a lifetime as a moral compass it quickly becomes evident that the charity also benefits hugely from training in the latest techniques when manufacturing seating so with this is mind I visit Mexico annually to help share my experience as well as train the staff they have there.
“Previously, I’ve been out with my family for two weeks at a time. My wife is a very experienced Paediatric Physiotherapist and has been able to assist a lot with the assessment of children as well as offer advice to staff.
“To assist with continuing the set up of the workshop and last year I took Richard Ward one of our team leaders at SOS to help give practical training to the workshop team. Richard ran training sessions to help pass on his skills in manufacturing equipment. This means they’re now better placed to manufacture their own equipment on-site.
“A typical day in Mexico would start at 8am with clinic assessment, which is not dissimilar to how we work in the UK, we see children that need specialised seating and assess them and their needs before specifying a chair or other equipment. We work closely with the clinic team and their enthusiasm is great as they are really keen to do well and learn about the latest thinking, techniques and technology.
“A typical afternoon would see us working with the workshop team, helping them to develop the scope of the workshop to manufacture seating and other equipment. We also advise on how they can get the best from the equipment we sent over to them in the container. They see this equipment as an invaluable resource. In addition I try to help with further improving the centre and the services it offers to the children.
“Unfortunately I’m not there long enough to see the benefits the seating has on the children however, there’s no doubt that the input from SOS has made a big impact on the Mexican childrens’ quality of life as well and we know from staff at the clinic that they enjoy being helped to develop and learn new skills. It’s a very rewarding charity to work with and we look forward to a long and fulfilling relationship with it over the coming years.”
“We’ve just received an e-mail telling us that our latest shipment has arrived. Those that are interested in getting involved can do so in a number of ways. SOS is happy to collect equipment which is no longer used from Wheelchair Services to put into the container. Simply contact SOS email@example.com or 01283 520400.”