Two clinical faculty members from the Department of Occupational Science and Technology volunteer regularly at a neighborhood outreach organization called City on a Hill. Tamicah Gelting, MS, OTR, clinical assistant professor and Patricia K. Thomas, MPA, CTRS, clinical associate professor, combined their occupational therapy and recreational therapy expertise to offer guests leisure-based craft activities. Their work benefits the community and provides OT students with real-world experience.
The work at City on a Hill
Located in the heart of Milwaukee, City on a Hill tries to break “the cycle of generational poverty and bring transformation to central city neighborhoods.” The organization is equipped with a medical clinic and social programming for children and their parents.
Through collaboration and service, they work “to alleviate the symptoms of chronic poverty in their neighborhood, equip young people to break the cycle of generational poverty in their families, and train and engage others in solutions to poverty and injustice in the city.”
One of the programs offered is Neighborhood Health Outreach. Offered every second Saturday of the month, it provides a variety of medical, nutrition and social services, including, but not limited to, physician and nurse practitioner services for the uninsured, physical therapy, health education and social worker services.
Collaborating for the community
Gelting and Thomas decided to connect their students with Neighborhood Health Outreach because they saw a need to add a psychosocial component to the services provided there. Along with receiving medical services, Gelting and Thomas introduced leisure-based craft activities for everyone, including parents and children, individuals from group home settings and people presenting with a variety of abilities.
Working together from two different professional perspectives allowed them to create a more meaningful experience, including producing an inviting environment, choice in craft activities, client education and opportunities to socialize. Of all of the services provided, guests typically express gratitude for the socialization and leisure-based opportunities that Gelting and Thomas provide.
Gelting explains, “We design and implement leisure-based activities to encourage socialization, promote health and wellness and give people a space to be themselves.”
Learning and skills building
Another benefit of the collaboration is that Gelting and Thomas actively demonstrate the value of inter-professional practice to the students. Graduate and undergraduate students from the Department of Occupational Science and Technology are encouraged to volunteer by assisting in the preparation of materials and implementing the activities.
During the activities, students socialize with guests and help them with projects. The guests enjoy talking with students, and the students have positive interaction with the different guests. For example, they interact with elderly individuals recounting positive memories from their past, people from group home facilities that may require extra assistance putting together a craft or children who want to play and interact.
Gelting explains, “Volunteering at City on a Hill provides students with a better understanding of the environmental and contextual factors that contribute to living in poverty. They begin to see the value in aspiring toward advocating for and achieving social justice for all, as opposed to looking at this experience as merely charity.”