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This fundraiser ended on 01/27/11

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Bringing educational & medical speech/language pathology services to resource-poor regions while helping Elaine broaden clinical experience.

My name is Elaine, and I am pursuing my M.S. in Speech and Language Pathology at Teachers College, Columbia University. I chose this field because communication is such an essential aspect of human life that most of us take for granted. We don’t realize until we see it taken away (be it by a stroke, an accident, or in a developmental disability such as autism or Down’s syndrome), just how much of a keystone it is in the quality of our lives. What drew me the most to the Master’s program at Columbia University, aside from its extraordinary faculty, was its focus on the multilingual and multicultural aspects of communication and communication disorders. Teachers College stands out for its steadfast commitment to social justice. Speech and language services are readily available to us in the United States, but that is not the case in many other countries. This semester, I applied and was invited to contribute to this year’s trip to Ghana, a region that has been identified as being in great need of speech and language services. This trip is not funded by the university, but instead, is built upon the commitment and efforts of individual faculty members and clinicians, who donate their time and expertise to develop educational and medical speech pathology services in resource-lacking regions around the world. Ghana This year, our team will be in Ghana from December 30, 2010 through January 13, 2011. We will be contributing our services in multidisciplinary cleft palate teams at Korle Bu Hospital in Accra and at Komfo Anokye Hospital in Kumasi, as well as in school settings in various rural villages that have demonstrated need. In the entire nation of Ghana, there is only one practicing speech-language pathologist, Albert Osei-Bagyina, resulting in an inconceivable shortage of medical and educational SLP services. The majority of modern health care services in Ghana is provided through privately practicing individuals (such as Albert) and through non-profit organizations such as Christian ministries and our own clinical team from Columbia U. Every year, when the SLP team from Teachers College arrives in Accra, countless individuals with cleft palate, cerebral palsy, hearing deficits, and other special needs travel on foot and by bus (sometimes for days) in hopes of receiving speech and language services. A mother struggling to feed and sustain her baby with cleft palate will be able to have her child evaluated and given pre- and post-surgical recommendations, including strategies and techniques to effectively feed her child and maximize nourishment and chances of thriving. This is just one example of how our team will provide services and training to implement change that will be sustained even after our departure. Beijing Earlier this year, I met Angela Gong, an amazing speech-language pathologist who visits Beijing annually to evaluate children in orphanages around the city. Many of these orphans have been abandoned because their families cannot afford or cope with the demands of caring for a child with special needs (e.g. heart conditions, tumors, cleft palate, cognitive impairment, developmental disabilities, and more). I am honored to have been invited to join her this January and contribute my clinical services in Mandarin. On January 14, 2011, I will be leaving from Accra, Ghana to meet with Angela in Beijing, where we will evaluate children in two orphanages. The majority of these children were born with cleft palate, which can severely impact an infant’s ability to feed and a child’s ability to communicate verbally. Others are born with respiratory and heart conditions, cognitive and language delays, and other conditions that result in their severe malnourishment or communicative limitations. With appropriate speech/feeding evaluations and referrals, along with empowering the personnel at these sites with sustainable training and strategies, these orphans are given a tenfold chance at survival and adoption. I feel incredibly blessed to have the opportunity to be a part of these endeavors to create sustainable change, and I know I will gain an incredible experience from the individuals that we’re aiming to help. I appreciate your support in encouragement and prayer. These programs never charge for their services, and are desperately in need of funds to maintain equipment and practice. These funds come directly from the pockets of the faculty and clinicians who participate in the program. I am personally paying for my flight ($2700 between NYC, Accra, & Beijing) and my accommodations / land transportation once on site at each location (estimated at $1000 in Ghana and $800 in Beijing). I hope to raise a portion of these funds through you, my amazing family and friends, who aren’t able to support me with your physical presence. Please show your support by donating. Any contribution, small or great, is received with my most sincere and humble gratitude. Thank you for helping me help others!
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