General Psychology 3 Masibambane volunteers recently hosted an end of year party for local children with disabilities and their caregivers

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General Psychology 3 Masibambane volunteers recently hosted an end of year party for local children with disabilities and their caregivers. This party was hosted at Sinako crèche. Masibambane is a community engagement initiative aimed at children with disabilities in disadvantaged communities and their families, and is co-ordinated by Dr. Lisa Saville Young, senior lecturer in the Department of Psychology in conjunction with Agata Runowicz (representing both the Department of Health and the Association for People with Physical Disabilities). The programme has run in its current format since 2010. This year, Benita Bobo (an honours student in the Psychology Department, and NRF intern) has also assisted in co-ordinating this programme.

18 Psychology third year students have volunteered on a weekly basis for this project. All these students attended the training at the CE Unit and also participated in specialised training which included training on working with children with cerebral palsy, and training on attachment theory and reflective functioning. In pairs, the volunteers ‘adopted’ a child with disabilities from a disadvantaged area in Grahamstown. The students then visited the child for at least an hour once a week, to get to know the child. Through help in supervision sessions (which were once a month with Dr. Saville Young, Benita, Agata Runowicz, and a social worker and physiotherapist) the students identified problems that the child and/or family were facing and tried to plan and implement a supportive intervention. Frequently the intervention involved providing appropriate stimulation for the child, providing appropriate support for the caregiver and interacting with the child as a subject, in their own right.

In the third term, many of the volunteers chose to write up their experiences in the form of an assignment for their Psychotherapeutic Interventions course, drawing on psychoanalytic theory. Here are extracts from two essays:

“During my visits Siziphiwe has demonstrated the ability to understand her own mental states and to imagine what others could be thinking and feeling. When either my partner and I are tired or irritated by the actions of her younger cousin, she is able to perceive our emotions and respond to them. Furthermore, she is able to interpret our behaviour and the behaviour of her cousins and understands the reason behind it. It is apparent that her ability to mentalize arises from the secure attachment which she has with her grandmother, who acts as her caregiver. It is evident that Siziphiwe looks to her for support and help.” – Jessie Berry

Finally, to end the year on a positive note, APD was shortlisted for the Community Partner of the Year award, in an awards ceremony that was hosted by the Rhodes University Community Engagement Unit (RUCE) on the 10th of October 2013.

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