The Trinidad and Tobago Occupational Therapy Association (TTOTA) and the Speech -Language & Audiology Association of Trinidad and Tobago (SLAATT) came together last Wednesday to launch TEAM Hope 2013. Hope is the acronym for How Ordinary People do Extraordinary things and that is exactly what the team was able to accomplish in 2009 and 2011 when they took fifty people from all walks of life and got them ready to compete in and complete the Rainbow Triathlon in Tobago.
Recently, they hosted the Information Party at Joseph's Restaurant in Maraval, at which many returning Hopees and many new faces showed up, all eager to commit to next year's effort. The mission of Team Hope is to raise awareness of the need for full occupational therapy, speech language therapy and audiology services for the people of Trinidad and Tobago who need it. In order to do this Team Hope will again recruit 50 ordinary people who will take up the challenge of completing the Neal and Massy Rainbow Cup Triathlon in June 2013.
The athletes will also raise $4,000 towards TTOTA and SLAATT missions. Priya Gomes, Occupational Therapist and Team Hope Coordinator told the packed room, "Occupational therapists are health professionals who help people across the lifespan to participate in the tasks they want and need to do through the therapeutic use of everyday activities (occupations).
"It is our belief that people have a right to full participation in community life despite mental or physical health status or disability. Approximately ten per cent of a population is estimated to have some type of disability and there are only seven practicing occupational therapists with two of them working in the public healthcare system. That's why we need to educate the public about the profession so they can demand these services when they utilise our public hospitals."
Keisha Lindsay, speech-language therapist and Chairman of the Occupational and Speech Language Therapy Board also spoke of the many challenges faced in her line of work. She stated, "In Trinidad and Tobago there is a critical need for the services provided by a speech-language pathologist, for both young and old. With stroke incidents and traumatic brain injuries on the rise, the demand continues to increase.
This is because regardless of onset, age or skill level, human beings maintain a desire to communicate and to eat. Speech therapy is more than just curing "tied-tongue" and stuttering, it's about facilitating the development and improvement of the communication skills that are needed to connect with each other."
Lindsay noted that there were 11 speech language therapists and only two audiologists in Trinidad and Tobago. Of the 11 speech language therapists, only one located in Tobago is publicly employed. "As with occupational therapy, we need the Government of Trinidad and Tobago to begin to recognise the need for well-paid therapists within the public service who can provide services to families who cannot afford to pay the prices charged in private practice. This is part of a wake-up call for all citizens," Ms Lindsay added.
To motivate each Team Hope participant, each athlete will also be symbolically paired with an honoured teammate, someone who needs occupational therapy, speech language therapy or audiology services, as an inspiration for them to complete the challenges. The audience was moved by Ms Hazel Toney, the mother of four-year-old Kylaan Gordon who is diagnosed with cerebral palsy and attended the event with his parents. She spoke of the impact occupational and speech language therapy was making in his development.
Another guest speaker, Arlene Hamblin, 2011 Team Hope participant, spoke of her fear of water prior to the competition. She was high in praise of all the coaches that gave of their time to assist in this worthy cause. Hamblin stated that her involvement in Team Hope has been a life changing experience and if she can do it anyone can. The team will be trained by expert coaches Jason Gooding, nine-time triathlon champion and Michael Nyarko, Masters swim coach and two-time junior national triathlon champion.
The organising team is confident they would pull it off again this year as they raised $239,000 in 2011 for TTOTA. They also boasted of having several Team Hope participants winning medals in their respective age categories at the 2011 Rainbow Cup Triathlon.
Through Team Hope, a unique community-based fund-raising and advocacy programme, TTOTA and SLAATT plan to raise public awareness of the situation of occupational and speech therapies as well as audiology services in the country, to create informed ambassadors for people with special needs and to raise funds to support various initiatives and goals of the associations. It is for these reasons that Atlantic has joined Team Hope as Gold Sponsors while Ask Leadership Foundation has come on as Silver Sponsors. Cascadia Hotel and Conference Center has also made a generous donation.
Team Hope Co-ordinator, Priya Gomes, closed the evening off by registering 33 people immediately and presenting prizes courtesy Gold Sponsor Atlantic; Joseph's restaurant; WOW-Women Only Workout; and Paul Mowser.
• For registration details contact Priya Gomes, Team Hope Coordinator and TTOTA Liasion (723-7370) or email@example.com, Keisha Lindsay, Team Hope Sports Liaison (724-5583) or Lysca Welcome-Tenia, SLAAT Liaison (333-7433)
• For more information on Team Hope 2013 visit Team HOPE on Facebook.
• For information on TTOTA and occupational therapy, visit Trinidad and Tobago Occupational Therapy Association on Facebook or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. For information on SLAATT, visit Speech and Language Association of Trinidad and Tobago on Facebook or e-mail email@example.com.