Its been a busy few months since our last update, so many exciting things have happened and many more on the horizon.
As you can see in the reports from last year, Laura and a small team did manage to travel to Puerto Vallarta, following the lifting of the world-wide Covid-19 restrictions. They achieved so much and it feels like we are building the momentum back up.
Last summer, in an event in PV celebrating the Achievements of Women, organised by Maria Rodolfa Gomez, Laura , our Director, won the Inspiring Lives Innovator of the Year Award. Sad that she was unable to collect the award herself, she was honoured that another inspiring woman and friend, Ericka from the Deporte Adaptado Puerto Vallarta collected the award on her behalf, along with our wonderful water therapist and original TU member Mariano. All at TU are so proud of Laura, with her dedication and achievements over the years, I'm sure all of you that follow Therapies Unite with agree this was a very well-deserved recognition.
We are now in our 10th year that Therapies Unite have worked with Keele University to provide opportunities for clinical practice / placements to their Physiotherapy Students. Covid restrictions meant it has been 3 years since we were able to offer this within the University curriculum. Laura and her team visited Keele University in November last year to talk to prospective students about the placement as well as review the work that has been completed by one of our interns, Leigh, who has produced a wonderful noticeboard about the Catrin Pickles Scholarship Placement. There is great excitement that this year, in April, a Therapies Unite team including 5 Physiotherapy Students from Keele University, will arrive in PV. These exceptional young people have been working hard to raise money to support their clinical placements with events such as Salsa Dancing and Cake / Bake Sales (after partaking in the cakes on offer, the salsa dancing was a must to work off some of those scrumptious calories!!) the countdown is on...
Recognising what a wonderful experience the clinical placement with TU is for Therapy Students, this year we are looking to expand beyond the Physiotherapy profession, with interest from a Clinical Science Student to complete her elective placement with the TU team. It will be great to have other trainee Healthcare Clinicians, enriching knowledge and skills for all involved.
As everyone seeks opportunities to save a little money as cost of living soars, at Therapies Unite, we are hugely grateful to all those who have been and are still supporting the work we do. Your donations, the salsa events, raffles and applying for charity grants, all make it possible to continue. We know the difference that the hydrotherapy, seating assessments and equipment provision makes to each individual and their wider family.
From all at Therapies Unite, In Mexico and United Kingdom, we wish you all Health and Happiness for 2023.
I thought it would be nice to give a little spotlight in this report to the sports team in Puerto Vallarta that we are linked to, the Deporte Adaptado. Ericka (the Coach) and her wonderful athletes are a group of children and adults of all ages with a wide range of disabilities. They train Monday to Friday 5pm-8pm in athletics, swimming and in the gym. I don't think I have ever met a more dedicated, inspiring and supportive group of individuals. The only negative is they make me and any visitors run around the track a lot when we go and see them!
We have had links with Deporte Adaptado since 2013 when we donated a large amount of gym equipment to them. They are based at a leisure centre which has a small room for them to use, as well as the track and outdoor pool. This room just had a few pieces of basic exercise equipment in it. We were able to donate some incredible weight training and cardio equipment to them, making a small gym area for them to train in as well. Over the years we have also been able to donate them new sports kit, training equipment, provided physiotherapy input and supported their athletes with attending events to complete in.
We have always tried to support the Deporte Adaptado where possible because they are given such limited funds and really struggle to train and compete as a result. When we visited in March, their swimmers were using flippers that were torn and stitched together! Due to a lack of government funding (not much money at all is invested in disability sport in Mexico) the Deporte Adaptado are limited with what they can achieve. Despite this, Ericka is a force to be reckoned with and fights so hard to ensure that her athletes are training to a high standard and attend as many national and internal events as possible.
Sergio is a member of the group and one of the original Penguins from our Catrin’s Penguins Group that we taught to swim. Sergio has a debilitating condition that affects his joints, mainly his hands and feet, which makes them very twisted and deformed. This makes it difficult for him to stand and walk. We were able to catch up with him during our visit in March this year and he proudly showed us his four medals that he won at a national swimming competition in Cancun last year. It is just incredible to see his journey over the years and I can still remember his first ever aquatic therapy session with us. We are so grateful to be linked with Deporte Adaptado and be able to refer our swimmers onto them for further specialist training. The group is very important to him, not only from a social point of view, but being in the water gives Sergio freedom where he can move as quickly as he wants without pain. If it was not for Deporte Adaptado, he would not have gone on to train in swimming and have had the opportunity to be part of this wonderful group and compete nationally and win! We recently funded Sergio and to attend a specialist review at an Orthopaedic clinic in Mexico City. They have offered some surgical intervention for his hands to make them more functional and less painful, which he will be proceeding with and I am sure will make a huge difference to his swimming stroke.He has a very promising future ahead of him.
There are three things the Deporte Adaptado need; one is equipment (uniforms, athletic and swimming costumes, flippers, hats, goggles, athletic and swimming equipment), the other is funding to attend competitions and finally access to regular physiotherapy assessment and treatment for the athletes. They are such an incredible group of individuals, so inspiring and supportive of one another and we would love to invest more in them and help them to grow and develop further.
We are incredibly proud to support the Deporte Adaptado and hope that we can continue to do so for many years to come. If you would be interested in sponsoring an athlete, funding physiotherapy sessions for the team or know any companies or organisations that may be able to donate kit or equipment please get in touch.
I wanted to give out a special mention to Mariano, one of our aquatic therapists, who was instrummental in helping to set up our aqautic therapy program. He was also responsible for bringing Sergio to his first ever lesson and drving him and his family to and from sessions for 5 years. Mariano's dedication and contribution to our services is extremely appreciated.
Thank you for taking the time to read this report. It has been lovely to sit and reflect on so many wonderful memories of my time with Sergio over the past 11 years and really see the difference that swimming has made to his life.
A word from our director
We recently got back from a month away in Puerto Vallarta working with all of our projects and catching up with friends and familiar faces. There is so much to talk about and I am currently writing up our full report to share with all of our supporters. It has been a long 3 years away but our team has done a tremendous job of keeping the projects going and supporting those individuals most in need. I just wanted to share our highlights as well as a little note from one of our volunteers, Ellen.
So in our whirlwind trip we managed to.....run four training courses focused on posture management and aquatic rehabilitation to 48 people, provide equipment to 20 children and adults, donate equipment to four centres/organisations working with people with disabilities, run 8 Catrin's Penguin sessions, sort out and organise all of our equipment, run a 5k, host two volunteers from the UK and visit our wonderful friends at the Deporte Adaptado. I am incredibly proud of what we achieved and of our wonderful team that surrounds us making it all possible. Special thanks also to our volunteers Ellen and Elsie.
Ellen has shared some words about her time in Mexico
"Recently I had the amazing opportunity to go out to Puerto Vallarta to volunteer for Therapies Unite and see first hand the amazing work they do. While I was there I got to support the work Therapies Unite provided for Pasitos de Luz, Catrin’s penguins and Deporte Adaptado. I loved working with these brave inspirational people and providing support for them. There are huge needs in all of these areas that Therapies Unite can provide. It was amazing to fit all the equipment and wheelchairs previously sent out to PV to children in great need of this. One of my favourite moments was when a young girl thanked us for fitting her into a new wheelchair saying how much more comfortable and supportive it was. The support and equipment provided and the support for disabilities is so little in Mexico and needs our ongoing support from Therapies Unite to provide the care so desperately needed. This can only be done with support and donations to continue providing therapy services and to continue the journey of Therapies Unite and put the future goals into reality."
Plans Moving Forwards
We now have lots of work to do as well as lots of planning for Mexico 2023. We have a number of specialist volunteers who will be joining us to deliver all kinds of training and hopefully a team of volunteers and students from Keele University too.
Our main focus for the rest of this year is fundraising. We need support to invest in and develop our services so we can have maximum impact. Every time we go to Mexico we know we help people and we know that we are changing lives. But this is not enough, we still do not have enough of an impact. We could do so much more and it is incredibly frustrating as I know so many children and adults that would benefit from our services but we simply do not have the capacity and the funds to help them. It was difficult to return after 3 years away and see the impact of this for some of the children and adults we know and have supported in the past. We are focused on making sustained changes, we are investing in training for local people, we are keeping our running costs as low as possible whilst trying to see as many people as possible and we are recycling equipment where we can. In order to grow and develop we need more funding and more hands on support to get our projects where they need to be.what We have done so well over the past 12 years to build and develop Therapies Unite, I would never have dreamed that we would be where we are today. With this in mind and with fresh inspiration and motivation from our trip, we will keep fighting and working towards our goal to one day have our own specialist centre in PV.
We re-started the sessions in March 2021 with new Covid-19 safe measures. We have had to introduce strict policies for the sessions and limit the numbers attending but slowly the team has built the service back up. We have two groups running once a week one after the other; one for children and one for adults. We have around 10 attend each session. Nadia, Laura and Mariano run both sessions. We were very fortunate to receive a £1000 grant from Audley Rotary Club which was spent to help re-start and improve the sessions. We spent the money on new equipment, uniforms and two Aquatic Therapy training courses for the staff which have been really valuable. One of the main aims of the past 12 months was to focus on staff training so this funding was really essential. It has been very effective in not only upskilling the team but giving them a boost as the pandemic has been really difficult and challenging for them.
We recently asked our Mums for some feedback of how the sessions were going and what was helping them and we had this wonderful response;
“The sessions have helped her to have self-confidence, to be sociable, to have more movement in her legs, she learned to stroke and breathe correctly in the water; for both of us it is a benefit since the session also relaxes us and it also distracts us.”
One of our regular attendees, Iris, who lost her leg in an accident three years ago, is now hosting her own radio
show about individuals living with disabilities in Mexico. She has improved so much physically and mentally from attending the sessions and finds the group so supportive. It really is like one big family.
We had some incredible news in October, Sergio our original swimmer and one of our first penguins got into to the PARANACIONALES CONADE CANCUN 2021, and won 3 gold and 2 silver medals in his races. This was after he had Covid and had not had the chance to train properly. We are super proud to be part of his journey and really excited to see where he is going to go next, hopefully Paris 2024!
So, for 2022 we will be focusing on securing some more grants to hopefully try and expand so that we can offer more sessions. We would also like to fund some more training for staff and I will be doing some informal training whilst I am there in March as well.
The clinic also re-opened in March but again with restrictions due to Covid-19. We moved to a new, larger premises where we can store the equipment and also complete assessments and have the workshop too.
The team have done really well in light of not having support from Catrin (our volunteer who was due to set up the clinic in 2020 and spend 8 months in PV) and no visits from me since 2019! We are really hoping that this year we can start to set up the clinic more formally as a ‘Posture Care’ centre but first the staff need some more training and we need to make some space and donate lots of the equipment.
The team are seeing people weekly and slowly working their way through the list of those most in need. The aim is to have the clinic set up to complete annual reviews of those with complex postures and provide equipment where possible as well as run educational workshops for parents/carers and professionals.
We will hopefully have an APT (paper technology) specialist come out in March to do some further training with the team in moulded seating, as this is where there is the most need.
Keele University and the Catrin Pickles Scholarship.
We have been working with Keele University and Santander to set up an Internship Program. Currently, we have 6 students completing projects for us in various areas focusing on health promotion, barriers in accessing rehab services for people with disabilities, the impact of Covid-19 on the disabled community in Mexico and exploring the challenges for UK registered charities raising funds during Covid-19 Pandemic. It has been a great experience so far as the students are very enthusiastic and creative, working hard to produce guidance, reports, materials and research which will really help us support and develop our services in Mexico. It is great for them too as they are learning lots of new skills and also get paid for their time as well as receiving money towards any relevant training or courses. We are hoping this is just the start of a long partnership with Santander.
We had the unfortunate news just before Christmas that the Catrin Pickles Keele Physio placement in Mexico had been cancelled for 2022. We had 5 incredible students who had been interviewed and selected to go. This is the third year running it has been cancelled but we are hoping that the placement will run next year and that these students will get a chance to come to Mexico at some point. The placement has been such a success and benefited over 22 students over the 10 years it has been running. We have had such lovely feedback about how much this placement has impacted on the students’ lives in so many ways, personally and professionally and we hope it will continue for many years to come.
Mexico Bound…(fingers crossed!)
I am planning a three-week trip at the end of March with one of the ex-Keele students who was due to come out in 2020 and a physio volunteer. We will mainly be focused on evaluating the current services, running training for the staff (posture management and aquatic therapy), running equipment donation clinics and re-connecting with the local Government and services that support individuals living with disabilities in Puerto Vallarta. I cannot wait to get back out there after three long years of not being able to go. The Mexican Team have been so resilient, dedicated and resourceful and I cannot wait to see them and our wonderful service users.
Catrin's Costal Challenge
The incredible Catrin completed 870 miles of the Welsh Coast Path in 10 weeks over the summer. She raised a massive £4543 for Therapies Unite which basically prevented us from shutting down in 2021. Catrin was a clinical educator and volunteer for us in 2018 and had planned to be in Mexico in 2020 for 6 months, helping us to set up our equipment and posture clinic. Unfortunately Covid-19 cut her trip way too short but we are hoping that Catrin will get out to Mexico again soon. She is such as asset to Therapies Unite and we are so very proud of her.
A Final Plea
Like most charities we are encountering financial issues following the last two years of Covid restrictions and lack of fund-raising opportunities. We have had to spend significantly more on
delivering our therapy provision than we have raised from our fundraising and small donations combined. Despite our very best efforts to reverse our fortunes, and even with the continued generosity of our incredible supporters, we were still facing a real threat to the future of the charity. The reality is that we are in dire need of support with our projections showing we could well be out of funds by April 2022. Those that have been out to Mexico and seen first-hand the impact of our work will know that closing our services would be catastrophic for the disabled community in Puerto Vallarta. We appreciate that this is such a difficult time for everyone financially but if you can support us in any way with a regular donation, no matter how small, we would greatly appreciate this. Please share our charity with your family and friends and get in touch if you would like to support us.
Many thanks and best wishes
Therapies Unite Director
We had to put the brakes on our services again in August following an increase in cases of Covid-19 in Puerto Vallarta. We felt that it would be best for our staff to switch back to remote working and take advantage of some extra time to focus on non-clinical work, which is equally as important for us in developing and moving our services forward. Unfortunately, opening and closing our services is the reality we are facing at the moment. Thankfully, our team is so resilient and resourceful this is not having too much of an impact.
So during this break from clinical work they have been planning on re-organising the equipment and system for loaning, which should make things a lot easier in terms of seeing what we have and where it is. We have some fantastic pieces of equipment and rather than donate it, we loan it so that when it is no longer in use, it can be returned, serviced and used by someone else.
We have built up a long list of clients who are eagerly awaiting their equipment review. Thankfully we have now re-opened our clinic, with Covid-19 safety measures in place. I have been receiving some great reports from our first few clinics and it is lovely to see some familiar faces in the photos I have been sent from the Team. The aim of what we are trying to do with our Posture Care Service in Puerto Vallarta is assess and review indivduals on an annual basis. This way we can check for any changes in their posture, check their equipment is still suitable and then update and change this if not. We can also update their Posture Care plans and guidance and this can be shared with their support networks. We are a long way off being able to do this for everyone that needs it, due to not having the time or resources, but this is our aim one day.
In the UK we have been planning a big return trip to Puerto Vallarta in March 2022. All being well with Covid-19 and global travel, there should be a large group of around 15 volunteers heading to Mexico to help give our team a much needed hand with tackling our waiting list as well as an overhaul of our services. We have a group of 5 students from Keele University who will be completing a 4 week credit bearing placement, as well as some ex-students who did not get the opportunity to go to Mexico in 2020/2021 as a result of Covid-19. We have lots of plans for Catrin’s Clinic. This will include sorting all the equipment, specialist training for our team and training sessions for physios/local support workers as well as running lots of posture clinics so we can review and support as many people as possible. We have been working hard to develop the service we run so that we can have more of an impact but the best thing for this is to be in Puerto Vallarta and work alongside the team. They are absolutely incredible and despite having very little face to face support over the past 2 years (due to Covid-19), they show such initiative and resourcefulness.
So I wanted to say a big thank you to them…Nadia our wonderful Physiotherapist and Therapies Unite Mexico Director and our incredible husband and wife duo, Oscar (Technician) and Laura (Physiotherapist). We would not be able to do what we do without them, they are so valuable and we are really looking forwards to investing more in their skills and development and hopefully in the future growing our team.
To ‘meet’ our team and learn more about Catrin’s Centre please head over to our website.
Thanks to you again to you for your continued support. We are hoping that by this time next year things will be well and truly up and running and we cannot wait to get back out to Mexico and really get stuck in.
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