Professional Volunteer Testimonials

Marie Brien (February 11th -April 5th, 2019)

I have truly enjoyed my 2-month stay as volunteer pediatric physiotherapist at ASSA. It has been really fulfilling to share my 37 years PT experience, clinical, education and research, with others at ASSA. My PT knowledge and input was sought, welcomed and appreciated in many different areas of ASSA, with my reach going much beyond the scope of early intervention only. I enjoyed conducting the training program to rehab specialist as well as providing hand-on skills training, knowledge exchange and mentorship through field visits, at MTU and Sanganam School. I was greeted with smiles everywhere and it was truly a joy to be part of the ‘ASSA Family’, where I wish to return in the future and continue providing input in different areas-IBR and VBR, different age groups.

I provided a 10-day EI training program rehab specialist in March; 6 days to 18 PTs and 4 days to 50 rehab staff (PTs, special educators, speech trainers, 2 OTs and 1 SLP).  I had dedicated much preparation time in Canada ahead of this training program which had been discussed months ahead with the EI team and I did minor modifications to my program when on-site at ASSA.

I also built-in daily participatory learning sessions and information sharing by participants in Tamil for the large group where some participants English was not as good. I also conducted a COPM training to the 50 rehab staff with a practical session of ‘mock use’ of the COPM (for an imaginary child and parent) in groups of 5 followed by presentations of COPM goals and ratings to the group as a whole.

I have been collaborating with the EI team on the data analysis for the EI-VBR project, provided on-site training of group of 8 EI-VBR PTs on the use of the GMAE (Gross Motor Ability Estimator) for calculating the GMFM-66. Provided much evidence-based knowledge exchange with the EI research team regarding the outcome measures and classification systems for CP. Involved in the manuscript development for the GMFM and WeeFIM components of the study and collaborating on the COPM manuscript.

I supervised and trained a PT student from UBC for 5 weeks for a pediatric PT placement at the EI Center with children followed by Renuga and Bama. I was a really busy time to prepare and conduct the training and also provide student supervision at the same time.

I went on 6 days of field visits in different blocks providing mentorship and hands-on training to a total of 8 EI-VBR PTs. We visited mostly children with CP and significant impairments, which PTs had identified to visit together. Very valuable knowledge and skill sharing with PTs and their parents.

I have spent time with the MTU PTs working with the school-aged children before and after school. Much knowledge exchange took place which reinforced the teaching I provided during my training program. I have assessed, provided recommendations and demonstrated treatment strategies with MTU PTs or these school-aged children with CP.

Discussed treatment approaches (active strengthening muscle elongation/stretching, ROM techniques, NDT approach), decision-making & use of orthotics, choice and availability of walking aids (including appropriate height), need for muscle lengthening surgery and positioning and proper seating in wheelchair. Visited the orthotic dept. with 3 MTU PTs to discuss required AFO modifications to the ready-made AFOs provided at ASSA. Trained Shajitha, Nisha and Muthu in using the GMAE for the GMFM-66.

I have had a few meetings with Navamani from the above-6 VBR Programme to discuss the revision of the assessment (General and specific) for these children. Discussion regarding the choice of outcome measure to use, questionnaires to evaluate impairments and function, identify goals, measure child participation. Also went on a VBR field visit to provide training on using the COPM (Canadian Occupational Performance Measure) and the PEM-CY (Participation and Environment Measure-Child and Youth) with a parent of a 9 yo boy with CP.

I spent time with PT at Sangamam School, doing a brief assessment of child under her care, reviewing her treatment plan and providing treatment approach recommendations for each child.

Heidi Lauckner (Feb 7- March 11, 2019)

I came here to learn about how ASSA supports our students and to explore possible research collaborations. I found that people are very committed to their work and to student learning.  Staff were keen to discuss issues and learn more about how to support student learning. People were also very keen to learn more about research.  Ram was supportive in brainstorming ideas and reviewing training material.  Other colleagues were friendly and open to collaborating. A very supportive environment!

Giovanna Boniface, OT and Jeff Boniface, OT - July 10 to August 11, 2017 (5 weeks onsite; 3 weeks offsite supervision)

Accommodation & Hospitality:

We have been treated very well by staff at ASSA (security, kitchen, staff);

Orientation about ASSA:

Very good overview tour provided by Ram on day 1 of our arrival; Orientation manual on Dropbox also very helpful;


Food provided was adequate; Kitchen staff was helpful and offered to accommodate needs;

Rehabilitation Services of Physically Challenged people:

Very impressed with broad range of services provided by ASSA, in particular, MTU (stroke) and SCI.

Staff Co- Operation in your Volunteer Work:

Staff very welcoming and helpful, especially Ram.

Jerid Stevenot

The students and I to work in a culturally reflexive way. It also challenged me to broaden my occupational therapy skill base. ASSA is a resource rich rehabilitation centre. With the use of my creativity and ASSA’s ingenuity a lot is possible.

I would love to come back and continue my relationship with ASSA!

Dawn Chishlom 

ASSA is a wonderful place to volunteer. The clients and staff welcome you from the first moment you arrive and you instantly feel part of their community. The clients are so positive and hard working; they are truly inspiring. The learning opportunities are tremendous for both preceptors and students. I highly recommend this experience to others, and I plan to return again in the future.

Ana Topalovic

My experience volunteering as an OT at ASSA has been wonderful and truly memorable. From the moment I arrived, and every step along the way, the staff were very helpful and always going out of their way to ensure that I and the other volunteers were completely comfortable and maximally taken care of. Ram, the head physiotherapist, worked efficiently and tirelessly to create a smooth transition of working at ASSA, as well as planning weekend trips for our group to sightsee and explore more of South India. Additionally, the guesthouse is a great space for therapists and students to reside in, as it has both the essentials as well as luxuries such as AC and wifi. And finally, when reviewing my time at ASSA, I must also mention the home cooked meals in the canteen. Every meal was absolutely delicious, and the kitchen staff always ensures you never leave hungry! Overall, it has been an honor taking part in the daily functions of such an impressive and extensive facility, an experience I would recommend to any OT, PT or student.

Caitlyn Debruyne

Thank you for a wonderful placement here at ASSA. The staff here are had workers and very enthusiastic and the rehab services wonderfully organized. I was sick and as a result struggled with the food. But meals makes great meals that are very fresh.

Michelle Hurley 

Working at ASSA was absolutely incredible. When I arrived I was welcomed with open arms and immediately felt at home. ASSA is very concerned with our safety and did a wonderful job at making sure we felt safe and comfortable.The facility itself was a lot bigger than I ever imagined and everything runs so well. The clients all have nothing but good things to say about the facility.

As an occupational therapist at ASSA all of my clients were extremely motivated and eager to participate. Teachers, staff interpreters were always available and eager to assist.

I think ASSA is an amazing organization and is very unique to India. This has been an amazing experience and one that I will never forget. Hopefully one day I can return for another volunteer opportunity.

My only regret is that I was not able to stay for a longer period of time due to previous commitments!

Leslie Birkett , OT – 2016

Volunteering at Sangam was an opportunity for which I am grateful. I was able to work with many children and with a few of the adults on the spinal cord unit. I also participated in some of the outreach conducted by the staff at Sangam to the multiple villages in the region. Those experiences were what made my time at Sangam so special. It was humbling to work with these patients and experience first-hand their determination and positivity. In addition to the patients, the staff were wonderful colleagues. Volunteering at Sangam allowed me to dig into my creativity and head back to the foundation of my OT knowledge. This strengthened my core belief in the value of occupational therapy as an important rehabilitative practice. I was extremely fortunate to have my family join me for my last week at Sangam, so that they could share in my experiences. My husband built some much needed equipment and my 13 year old son assisted throughout campus and loved his opportunity to interact with the children. I only hope Sangam got as much from us as we did from them!

Janine Stang , OT – 2015

I was so inspired by my time at Amar Seva Sangam. ASSA supports the client’s physical and mental wellbeing while providing them with the resources and opportunities they require to be valued members of society. The atmosphere on the campus is one of community and togetherness that I am honored to have been a part of for a brief time. I feel that my time at Amar Seva Sangam made me a stronger occupational therapist as it took me back to the core of the profession and encouraged me to think outside the box while reinforcing best practice, no matter where in the world you are practicing. I loved getting to know all of my clients and their families in the spinal cord injury program. Their determination and positivity were infectious so it was amazing to see that Amar Seva Sangam supported these client’s in every way possible.

Jamie , OT – 2015

My time at ASSA has truly reminded me why I became an OT. Working on the spinal cord unit specifically has pushed me to step outside my comfort zone and exhaust every possibility to help clients reach independence with goals that are important to them. My time here has taught me the importance of body language and how a simple smile can go a long way. Although I’ve been frustrated at times due to a severe language barrier, I quickly discovered that here at ASSA and in India as a whole, the most important messages can be said without a single word, as India is a culture of the heart! I’ve been moved to tears numerous times at the sense of ownership both staff and clients take in helping one another. There is also a sense of camaraderie here between clients that is touching to witness and be a part of. These young and older men have experienced a traumatic event that has forever altered the course of their lives, however instead of wallowing they are trying to not only work on their own personal recovery, but cheering each other along by celebrating the small successes! To them every gain is worth acknowledging. Even more, when seeing their friends struggle due to a physical limitation, they are always there to help in any way they can can despite their shortcomings. On the unit, one man’s strengths can compensate for another man’s weaknesses and make all the difference! I’ve worked in many countries with access to all the necessary resources to promote a speedy recovery, but it is in India where not everything is readily available that I’ve learned the most valuable techniques and lessons as an OT. Thank you ASSA for reminding me of the importance of love, tolerance and perseverance. Thank you to all the staff and clients who welcomed me with open hearts. I’m already already missing you and looking forward to my next visit!

"Experience at Amar Seva Sangam" - 2010- 2011 By Robyn Smith Saona

Robyn is a Physiotherapist from Vancouver Canada. She wanted to donate a significant time in India doing voluntary work before getting married in 2011. She found out about HCI and ended up volunteering at Amar Seva Sangam for 4 months in 2010-2011. She had a very meaningful and remarkable experience which has enhanced her work as a therapist, opened up new venues for her professionally, individually and socially….. Here is what she says….

“I cannot express how grateful I am to Handi-Care for connecting me with Sangam. At Sangam, I learned that there are no barriers to developing close and meaningful relationships with others, regardless of culture, context or language. I learned that it is possible for one person or one organization to truly impact the lives of thousands of people. Sangam allowed me to not only utilize my skills as a physiotherapist but to also explore my interest in learning about the administrative side of running a successful NGO. I also enjoyed every minute I had to spend with the children on campus. They were truly an inspiration. Despite the physical challenges many of them face on a daily basis, I never heard a single complaint or saw a single frown, just an endless stream of warm smiles. There is definitely something unique about Sangam, and I feel very blessed to have become a part of the family there. I look forward to remaining closely involved with both Handi-Care and Sangam, and I am excited for my next visit to India!”

Janna MacLachlan, MSc OT, Occupational Therapist, Ottawa, ON, Canada

“In the summer of 2007, I traveled as a volunteer with Handi-Care Intl. to Amar Seva Sangam in India. I saw and learned about more types of disabilities than I would ever see on my occupational therapy placements in Canada. I met people with post-polio syndrome, significantly contracted extremities, stage IV pressure ulcers, club foot and suffering from long-term effects of tuberculosis. I didn’t know how much this learning would be helpful to me until I took a position as a Baffin Region Occupational Therapist stationed in Iqaluit, Nunavut where I again saw each of these conditions and situations. Another way this experience provided by Handi-Care Intl. helped me with my work in Nunavut, is learning how different cultures approach disability, and an introduction to what it is like to live with a disability in areas of extreme poverty. Handi-Care Intl. and Amar Seva Sangam provided me with so much more relevant experience that I needed in Nunavut than did the rest of my occupational therapy education, which was executed in an urban Canadian setting.”