Phase 1 – The Big Picture

After having several meetings with Hampanna, the director of Samarthya (the sector of Samuha dedicated to helping people with disabilities), we established that the main goal over the next six (almost five!) months is to strengthen the existing programs and increase their sustainability. The programs are:

  • Koppal Early Intervention Centre and Workshop
  • Deodurg Early Intervention Centre and Workshop (4 hours north of Koppal)
  • Raichur Workshop (4 hours northeast of Koppal), and a non-existent but much-needed Early Intervention Centre
  • Koppal Adult Spinal Cord Rehabilitation Centre (the only one of it’s kind in the area)

Prior to any planning or analysis, our team wanted to connect with local staff to gain a deeper understanding of their programs’ goals, structure, workplace dynamics and culture, and of course, to further understand ‘rural Indian’ lifestyle and culture.

We asked some ‘big picture’ questions to see how the CBR workers and technicians viewed the current state of their programs:

  1. What is your role? What tasks are you responsible for?
  2. What the your favourite part of your job?
  3. What is your least favourite/most frustrating/most difficult part of your job?
  4. What is your program doing well?
  5. How could your program improve?
  6. What would you like to see change?
  7. What goals do you have for your career?
  8. How would you like Canadian volunteers to be involved in the growth of your programs over the next 6 months (if at all?)

I’ve had ‘big picture’ conversations with many of my friends and colleagues at home, and those who know me would agree that I like to ask the question, “In an ideal world, with no limitations – what would you do for the rest of your life?”.

I LOVE the thought-process and conversation that this question stimulates, and the insight one can gain about a person (or about themselves) from their answer. So, we modified this question for the project:

    9.  In an ideal world with no limitations, how would your program run?

The staff are often overwhelmed with work that they rarely have an opportunity to voice their true concerns and opinions to their colleagues or superiors, so we hope to create a platform for them to do that with these conversations. We were astounded by their creative responses and ability to express their core desires, and now we just need to explore the ‘how-to’ to make it happen. 

We want to encourage them to dream. To create a vision. Because “clarity precedes mastery and it’s impossible to create an outcome/goal/result that you can’t even see”. – Robin Sharma

Dream. Articulate. Plan. Achieve.



India Week 1-2 – Fundraising success, Shopping, Koppal, Frustrations

During our first couple weeks here in India, we have already experienced so many ups and downs!

Firstly – although the final count is nowhere near final, we have REACHED OUR GOAL and collected over $10,000 in contributions!! Many volunteers still have to pass along some donations, so THANK YOU to every single person who gave everso generously.

We gathered a few last minute supplies and snacks in Bangalore, then hauled all of our stuff to the train station, and were rocked to (not-so-deep) sleep on the 10-hour overnight train to Koppal, and were greeted by smiling familiar faces at the train station! From there, we took the most common form of transportation back to Samuha – motorbikes!IMG_6184 (1)


We spent the first few days getting ourselves sorted and ready for our time in Koppal. Big realization: nothing in India runs as smoothly as one would hope. We bought only one ready made outfit each in Bangalore, with the intention that we would custom order the rest of our clothing made locally in Koppal to support the economy.

One of the first evenings, we ventured into town with the cook (who can also sew), and two other female CBR workers. There are also three German volunteers here for the year, so they came for the trip into town as well. We packed 11 people into a 7 seater micro-van. So we took a selfie.


We went to three different fabric shops and became overwhelmed with the choices being thrown at us (literally, they were throwing stacks of dresses at us), then another shop to purchase lining fabric, then yet another shop to buy thread. The whole affair took us three hours. But, Ruksana (the cook) created beautiful suits for us to wear during our time here in only two days. Each set cost $22CAD, materials and labour all in.


The next example of how things don’t run as smoothly as you’d hope: when I say that my patience was tested these past weeks, that is an extreme understatement. Much of the reason that I haven’t updated this blog was because I was dealing with visa issues – when I applied for my employment/volunteer visa in Vancouver, I listed the Samuha Bangalore address on the application (as that is the official registered office). They granted my visa as above but when I went to register with the immigration office (which I had to do since I’m staying a longer period), they strictly told me that I was only allowed to live and work in Bangalore, and therefore not allowed to work in Koppal, where I need to be.

We tried everything – I stood in line after line, travelled back and forth to Bangalore, filled out forms, Samuha directors wrote me new sponsorship letters, I pleaded with several different officers, and Samuha even sent in one of their main contacts to speak with a higher level officer. At the end of it all, we had two options: a) IF the Vancouver office amended the visa to change the location from ‘Bangalore’ to ‘Koppal’, then I could stay; or b) I would have to leave the country, fly home to Vancouver, and re-apply for a new visa then fly back. I sent a few emails to request the change, but ultimately it was with the help of my dear friend and Kids Physio colleague Sharaya who physically went to the office, explained my situation, and was able to get a Consular officer there to grant the change. I CAN STAY!!

I cannot express my gratitude enough to each person who worked so hard to keep me in the country – from the drivers bringing me back and forth to the office, the staff for writing last minute letters, offering support and calling in help, and of course Sharaya for taking time out of her busy day to go to the visa office on my behalf.

SO – project-wise, what have we been up to? Well, after a few exciting sessions of brainstorming and planning, the ball is rolling on how to improve the programs of the Early Intervention Centre in Koppal (main town), the Early Intervention Centre in Deodurg (3 hours away from Koppal), and the Spinal Cord Rehabilitation Unit (45 minutes away from Koppal). Those details coming up next!!

On the Road Again

adˈven(t)SHər, ədˈven(t)SHər/
  1. an unusual and exciting, typically hazardous, experience or activity.
Last fall, I was getting an itch for adventure and a desire to take on a new big project. After exploring several options, I decided to head back to the place that so heavily influenced my career and my life – Samuha Samarthya in India! It will certainly be an exciting (but hopefully not too hazardous!) experience, and undoubtedly the largest venture I have ever undertaken to date.
This will be my third volunteer trip there, and my role is evolving once more as I’ll be staying for 6 months. In 2011 I was a physio student, in 2014 my role as clinical preceptor allowed me to take another physio student, and in October 2015 – March 2016 I will be focusing on the education piece and working as a coordinator to help facilitate Samuha Samarthya’s growth.
The main goal of this trip is to improve Samuha Samarthya’s sustainability. We hope to contribute to this by:
  1. Improve the Community-Based Rehabilitation (CBR) training manuals (which haven’t been updated in 20 years!)
  2. Hold theoretical and practical educational sessions for the CBR workers to improve and standardize the level of care being provided in the Early Intervention Centres, the Spinal Cord Rehabilitation Unit, and other community outreach programs.
  3. Hold educational sessions for caregivers, school teachers, and other community members to maximize care and inclusion of people with disabilities in these rural communities.
  4. Increase efficiency of the organization by piloting and implementing new ventures such as a loan equipment program
  5. Teach the local CBR-Workers to be teachers, so they can continue to educate their colleagues and future newcomers to the field, and not rely on Canadian volunteers for education
  6. Raise awareness of Samuha Samarthya by facilitating Canadian volunteer experiences (physiotherapists and orthotists). There are a total of 17 other clinicians and students coming for 1-2 month stints throughout the project!
  7. Raise awareness for global health and create avenues for discussion about international volunteering in general, as I hope some of these volunteers may have the desire to contribute to other international projects. It is crucial to understand what type of volunteer work is beneficial for these types of NGOs, as we will be aiming to empower the local workers rather than doing the clinical work ourselves. We don’t want to parachute in, work, and leave, as that would leave the organization no different than when we found it.
Stay tuned over the coming months for updates on volunteer profiles, details fundraising events, and play-by-play action while we’re there. Thank you to everyone for your support so far!
 global health image

Dollars For Development – Where Exactly Did Your Donations Go?

A couple weeks ago I had a meeting with Samarthya director Hampanna to discuss the $9100 raised through our Dollars For Development campaign ($9100! That’s incredible!). Now that we’d seen how Samarthya operates and where the needs exist, Maegan and I talked where we felt the funds would be best assigned, and so here’s how they will be allocated over the next year:

1) Community Disability Clinics, Early Intervention Centre and Home based service for Children with Disability:  This includes educational toys and supplies to help children with Cerebral Palsy, Cognitive Delay, Spina Bifida, Autism, and other disabilities.

Additionally, we wanted to purchase more mats for the Early Intervention Centre, and invest in a photocopier for the office so the workers would be encouraged to draw home exercise sheets and provide written recommendations for the families.

2) Support for Medical Interventions / Further Referrals: This includes financial assistance for low-income families towards advanced assessments, treatments, and follow-up consults with specialists such as neurologists and orthopaedic surgeons.

Samuha can also aid families with surgery costs (for example, a hamstring release), transport to and from the city (usually Bangalore), and staff support (so a local worker can accompany the family to the appointments to assist with the discussions and decision-making).

3) Aids and Appliances: This contributes to the funds needed to fabricate orthotic & prosthetic aids, seating chairs, wheelchairs, tricycles, callipers, standing frames, commodes, and splints. We met with orthotic technician Muttana who requested some support to purchase a lathe, vacuum for splinting, and another drilling machine for the workshop.

4) Administration:  Other expenses associated with implementing and allocating these funds, i.e. accounting, audit, office/building expenses, telephone, transport and other utilities. This will be roughly 10% of the total donations.

We also took the liberty of donating a small amount to some of the families on our caseload for specific needs, like the one family of three children with muscular dystrophy who needed a wheelchair and writing tables… this still falls under #1 above, its just so nice that we were able to make that decision on the spot and help a special family that we worked with directly.

To give you an idea of how far this money will reach, $9100 = over 500,000 rupees. A pair of splints cost about 400 rupees, and a new wheelchair is 10,000 rupees.

Thanks again to everyone for their financial and moral support, and for spreading the word about our campaign. It will really make a considerable difference in so many lives.


The Early Intervention Centre will be able to purchase a few more paediatric-sized two-wheeled walkers like this one


The DFD funds will also go towards materials such as plywood, splinting plastic, plaster casts, and tools


The fundraising money will also go towards supplying children with splints like this one, or showing a village carpenter how to make this simple version of a walker

#DollarsForDevelopment and #GivingTuesday

#BlackFriday has come and gone, #CyberMonday is here in a few short hours. After a weekend traditionally associated with sales, shopping and splurging, a new day has been created to bring awareness to social issues and good causes – #GivingTuesday is coming to Canada for the first time this year!


“It is a new Canadian movement for giving and volunteering, taking place each year after Cyber Monday. The “Opening day of the giving season,” it is a day where charities, companies and individuals join together to share commitments, rally for favourite causes and think about others.”

I’m happy to share that #DollarsForDevelopment has been approved to be a part of Indiegogo’s #GivingTuesday initiative! For every $20 that our campaign receives on Tuesday December 3rd, Indiegogo will donate $1!


AND THE CHERRY ON TOP: Kids Physio Group has committed to matching Indiegogo’s contribution, which will multiply the effects – we will now get a bonus of $2 for each $20 that we receive on Tuesday! I am so fortunate to work at a clinic that is so supportive of this endeavour that Maegan and I are so passionate about!!


Please take part in this day of giving. If you’ve been thinking of supporting #DollarsForDevelopment in our quest in improve rehab services for kids in South India, Tuesday December 3rd will be a great chance to maximize your contribution 🙂

We’re at 90% of our $5000 goal!

Evening Bootcamp with Fit By Francis

In the process of fundraising for Samuha (so they can buy therapy supplies, splinting materials, and pay local rehab workers wages), I’ve been reaching out to the various networks from different areas in my life. I’m excited to collaborate with a long-time friend (since Grade 2 in our small hometown of Kitimat, BC!) to generate awareness for my quest to improve the quality of rehabilitation for special needs children in Koppal, India.

Francis Dos Santos of Fit by Francis is generously donating his time and years of personal training expertise to hold a Bootcamp class to help fundraise for my Indiegogo campaign, Dollars For Development. Come get an amazing workout during the holiday-party season, network, and help to make a difference in these children’s lives!

Francis has been dedicated to building his clientele and fine-tuning his approach to training and fitness over the past six years. He focuses on functional movement training (which, as a physiotherapist, I love!) using a variety of equipment and techniques, so we are extremely lucky to be teaming up with him for this event!

There are only 13 spots left!
Please RSVP to Andrea at
Admission by cash donation please 🙂

Hope to see you there!

Fit By Francis Bootcamp Poster-page-001

Taking Care of Business

42 DAYS LEFT! We’ve checked off the most important things on our to-do list:

– Fill out paperwork and consult at the Vancouver Coastal Health Travel Clinic to ensure all of our immunizations are up-to-date: Check.

Purchase DukOral to arm us (as much as possible) against the inevitable traveller’s diarrhea: Check……. But we’ll get sick anyways. Boo.

– Search frantically on every discount flight website out there for the best deal on flights to Bangalore…Thank you! Simultaneous online bookings to ensure adjacent seats – Boom. Check.

– Take stoic (mugshot) photos, get confused at the Indian Consulate, and wait in multiple lines to obtain our travel visas: Check.

Andrea to find a locum to cover her overly-full caseload at Kids Physio Group so her clients continue to receive steady physio treatment during the 5 weeks that we’re away: Check. Thank you Susan Moriarty for being so keen!

Now… FUNDRAISING! Our Indiegogo campaign is well on the way, raising money to purchase therapy supplies, equipment, and ensure employment of the local rehab workers. Currently we’re at 25% of our $5000 goal. Several sponsors such as Valley Orthocare and SportMed have stepped up to donate splinting supplies and exercise equipment, respectively. Wow – so encouraged by the support and generosity of local businesses!! Thank you also to all of our friends, colleagues, and family who have spread the word about our cause so far 🙂

Sportmed logo Valley Orthocare logo

If you haven’t yet, please be sure to check out Dollars for Development at . Please help us make a difference in South India!