Leslie Simms and Jenny Taylor, UAB Occupational Therapy classmates and alumnae, are board members of Our Hope International. The organization supports the Home of Hope orphanage in Uganda, Africa, through donations and the sale of paper beads handmade in Uganda. The definition of hope, as defined by Simms and Taylor, is not a want to happen or think it can happen. Hope means making it happen.
“We take an annual trip to serve the children, staff and local community in Uganda,” said Taylor, founder of Our Hope International and Jonesboro, Ga., native. "We deliver needed equipment, toiletries, clothing, and encouragment, with our ultimate goal of being the hands and feet of Jesus Christ."
“The reason I wanted to be involved with Our Hope is because I desire to share Jesus Christ with people of all nations, just as someone shared Christ with me,” added Simms, a native of Meridian, Miss., who assists with administration and fund raising.
All of the orphans that Our Hope International works with are disabled. For Simms, who works to improve children’s occupations at the UAB Civitan-Sparks Clinics, and for Taylor, who works with individuals with neurological conditions at UAB Spain Rehabilitation, it is a natural calling. However, it is not one they can do alone.
So this year they entered a partnership with their old friends at UAB Occupational Therapy. The orphans in Uganda need special chairs. The chairs would provide proper support when they eat but also be functional enough to handle play time. Who better to build these than students in an OT program? However, there is a catch.
“The chairs need to be light weight and be able to fit in suitcases so our team can take them to Uganda when we visit so they are making paper mache chairs with removable parts,” said Taylor.
In addition to assisting UAB students’ education in the OT classroom, Simms and Taylor are helping them outside of the classroom. Simms is a fieldwork educator at Civitan Sparks and Taylor is a fieldwork educator at Spain. Each works extensively to prepare the next generation of occupational therapists.
Their advice to UAB students is simple - open your mind to the infinite possibilities of the profession and our world.
“Try not to focus too intently on one specialty at the expense of exploring other areas,” said Simms.
“Know that in every job there are skills to gain and ways to be stretched,” said Taylor. “I never planned to start a non-profit helping orphans in Africa but my OT skills prepared me to accept that challenge.”
For more information about Our Hope International, visit their website: http://www.ourhopeinternational.com.