Siobhan Harding - BSc Physiotherapy Keele University 2010-2013 (International Elective)

During my final year at Keele, a once in a lifetime opportunity opened up for four students to complete voluntary charity work abroad with financial support provided in part by SHAR. Therapies Unite is a civil organisation based out in Mexico that works with adults and children with disabilities to provide them with access to equipment, healthcare and rehabilitation services.

Before leaving, we were keen to be able to contribute to the charities financially. Alongside the Catrin Pickles Scholarship awarded to two students, we were also successful in securing funding from the CSP Educational Award and Scholarship and from Santander. We also ran a whole host of fundraising events including Zumbathons, cake sales, charity massage days, salsa evenings, Easter raffles and sponsorship from the Yorkshire Three Peaks challenge to name but a few!

The elective placement comprised a total of four weeks working for Therapies Unite; two weeks working in community projects in Puerto Vallarta (including day centres, Catrin's Penguins Halliwick hydrotherapy group and "Foundacion de Downs" - a group providing multidisciplinary involvement for the assessment and treatment of Downs Syndrome children) and two weeks working in Instituto Nuevo Amanecer, Monterrey which is a school providing intensive holistic rehabilitation to children with Cerebral Palsy (CP).

Whilst at Instituto Nuevo Amanecer, we presented evidence about facilitating merging the physical education and physical rehabilitation departments to maximise available resources, ensuring continuity within the programme of a child's care and reducing the risk of overuse injuries in the CP population. This was presented to directors of the institute and was an idea they were enthusiastic about implementing, supplemented with the right training. We left Mexico with a real sense of achievement and feeling like we had made a difference. It was a very personal journey for each one of us for different reasons. For me, it was four weeks of "firsts" and I came home with confidence, resourcefulness and a few key Spanish phrases!