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!!


Fitness Fundraisers!!!

We had HUGE success during the 2014 fundraising campaign from our two fundraising events. As a physiotherapist, these were the best events possible in my eyes: the participants got up and MOVING, the talented entrepreneurs Francis Dos Santos and Carla Rogan were able to showcase their skills, and we raised a total of $450 for Samuha Samarthya – it really was a win-win-win situation. This money went directly to Koppal, India, and Samuha was able to purchase some much-needed therapy and mobility equipment for families who couldn’t afford it.

It was a no-brainer to run these two events again this year, so here’s the info!! RSVP to to register for either (or both!) of these events.

Francis Dos Santos is holding a high-energy bootcamp class at GroundWork Athletics. Get ready to sweat, pump up your heart rate, and burn some serious calories!

FBF Bootcamp Poster 2015-page-001

NEXT: My dear friend Carla Rogan will be holding a yoga class at Make, the creative agency where she works. The gallery is an open space with high ceilings and this yoga class is a perfect combination of flexibility, relaxation, and strength, and will be a great way to kick off the weekend!!

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YOU can be the change!

2015-2016 Samuha Samarthya Sustainability Project

We have been so grateful that many of you have asked how you can contribute to this project. Well – here’s your chance!

Our fundraising campaign is aiming to raise $10,000 for the 2015-2016 Samuha Samarthya Sustainability Project starts today, and wraps up on September 30th!

Please visit the DONATE tab for full details on how the money will be used. 

In order to avoid administrative fees imposed by fundraising websites, we will be collecting donations via direct deposit to the following account that we created specifically for this campaign. Donations of more than $20 are eligible for a charitable tax receipt.

Please include your email address in the “Message To Recipient” box so we can contact you to say Thank-You and get more details to send you a receipt if you’d like one.

Interac E-Transfer:
Transit: 02800
Institution: 010
Account #: 8844739
Swift Code (for International Donors): CIBCCATT

If you aren’t able to make a financial contribution, we completely understand – we would appreciate any help to spread the word about our cause in any way you feel inclined. Talk, text, Facebook, Tweet… we would be so SO grateful for it all. 

THANK YOU for your support.


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

S.O.D.A. – Annual Fundraiser

On November 1st, Samuha Overseas Development Association (S.O.D.A.) held the Annual Fundraiser Dinner. For those of you who are new to my work, please read more about what S.O.D.A. and Samuha are is here. I volunteered at Samuha in January of 2011 and 2014 and they were both such great experiences that changed my life and career path, and I’m excited to now be on the board of S.O.D.A!

After a bit of a flight fiasco due to the weather, I finally made it into Prince George to attend the event. I met the rest of the S.O.D.A. board, the faithful supporters and benefactors, and also the passionate physiotherapist who’s heading to Samuha this year, Phil Sheppard! He’s also taking four lovely ladies from the UBC Physio Program as his students to share his experience. Check out Phil’s blog to keep up to date on all the action at Samuha this coming January!

Guests were welcomed into the Hart Crown Banquet Hall greeted by smiling S.O.D.A. members and had an opportunity to check out the wide array of silent auction items, get mehndi on their hands, or even try turban wrapping!photo 3 craft table3photo 1 photo 2 craft table 2 silent auction 3 turban wrap 2 turban wrap 4 turban wrap 3

A singer serenaded us and our grumbling tummies just before we were served an incredible spread catered by Dana Mandi Indian Cuisine:

singer 3 food 2

After we were beyond full, founder and president of S.O.D.A. Hilary Crowley explained the history of the organization and shared the stories of the some of the children and adults she’s seen benefit from Samuha’s work. It was touching to see how these children (about 20 years ago) with disabilities have grown into happy adults and are strong members of their communities, since Samuha has empowered them to live a full life.


Next, I shared my experiences at Samuha and how the organization has spurred a Butterfly Effect:

The Butterfly Effect:

‘The phenomenon whereby a minute localized change in a complex system can have large effects elsewhere.’

Also explained as the concept where ‘the flap of a butterfly’s wings on this side of the world causes a hurricane on the other’.

Practically speaking:

– Five years ago, donors at this annual S.O.D.A. fundraiser generously gave, and the collective result enabled Samuha to continue operations for a few more years…

– In 2011, I went to Samuha for the first time as a Physio student, where a majority of my caseload turned out to be pediatric patients. I realized how I could harness my silly and creative side to make a difference in a whole family…

– I came back to Vancouver, landed a full-time position at Kids Physio Group, and now have serviced over 300 children in the lower mainland…

– My 2011 trip impacted me so much that I went back in 2014, with physio student Maegan Mak and over $9000 in donations that went straight to Samuha…

– Maegan Mak and Kailen Houle (both students on the 2014 trip) ended up starting their physio careers in pediatrics (which is a very underserved population in Canada!)…

– And now I’m hoping to go back in the near future to see how I can contribute again.

If you’re interested, you can watch the video of my presentation here in Part 1 and Part 2!

Andrea 1

Phil then topped of the set by introducing himself and sharing his passion for rural and global health, which he’s dedicating his career to. He also showed a video of the four UBC Physio students – Sara, Josina, Madison, and Krysta – who are going with him to Samuha this year, check that out on his blog here.

It was such a successful evening, and S.O.D.A. raised over $10,000 to continue to support Samuha Samarthya!! Thanks to everyone who came!

group 2

We Did It!

On Saturday, October 4th, Sarah and I were more than thrilled to wake up early and head to Richmond to hold our FIRST workshop! We teamed up with Kinesiologist Kelli Lawson, owner of Kinetic Potential, who hosted us and 11 smiling participants at her beautiful studio overlooking the greenery of East Richmond 1

We shared the morning with a wide variety of people – from an 11-year-old boy to a 64-year-old woman with a total knee replacement, and everyone in between!

We spent some time discussing what the TRUE core is, how it works, and how to activate it effortlessly. Following some individual and practical sessions, we challenged our participants to expand their movement repetoire with squatting mobility drills and creative brainstorming about postural transitions.

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THANK YOU to all who came to the workshop, and especially to Kelli for hosting us –  we hope that you left with some newfound knowledge about your core and learned to appreciate the importance of moving… for life!

Movement 101 Workshop – Richmond

Physiotherapist Sarah Stroh is one of my nearest and dearest friends. We have a long history of having conversations about our passion for teaching people (children and adults alike) how to properly move their bodies to prevent and rehabilitate injuries. After coming to a realization that we were delivering the same messages to our clients day in and day out (how important it is to breathe, what exactly your ‘true core’ is, benefits of squatting and crawling and hanging, etc), we thought, hey – why don’t we offer a workshop where we can deliver our message to lots of people all at once BEFORE they come into the clinic for pain and dysfunction?

After many weekly meetings, exciting discussions, play dates, and coffees, here it is: Movement 101.

Sarah’s incredibly detailed observation skills for movement patterns, yoga and pilates training, plenty of research on breath and core, and a continuing passion for helping adults move better


Andrea’s knowledge of neurodevelopment and children’s physical abilities, and high level of creativity for fun movement games, and also a continuing passion for helping kiddos move better


Our various experiences and education from courses and physio mentors combined


The most effective and fun ‘exercise-less’ movement morning happily delivered by two enthusiastic and smiling physiotherapists 🙂

Movement 101 Poster C