Bloor West Physiotherapy & Sports Medicine CentreServing the Community for Over 45 Years

Reaching Out

"Our mandate was to help teach, treat and heal a war torn nation..... it was an honour to be involved" - Evelyn Brett PT., Registered Physiotherapist, Founder and Clinical Director

Bloor West Physiotherapy visits Rwanda on 'People to People' mission

During our 45 years of service to the Bloor West Village and Toronto community, our experts at Bloor West Physiotherapy, Sports Medicine and Orthopaedics have been helping patients recover from a wide variety of musculoskeletal conditions. Most recently, our clinical director and founder Evelyn Brett PT., Registered Physiotherapist, was honoured as one of 25 Canadian Physiotherapists selected to represent Canada as part of a humanitarian delegation to post war Rwanda. Ms Brett stated that:
"It was a tremendous honour to represent both the Canadian Physiotherapy profession and Canada. Our work in Rwanda was extremely difficult emotionally, but at the same time it was intensely rewarding. There is an overwhelming need for our services, many injuries suffered during the civil war and genocide are still affecting a great number of people. The Rwandan Physiotherapists and other rehabilitation professionals are so eager to learn and were truly grateful for the knowledge and expertise that we were able to share. The people were so gracious, all listening so intently to our advice, the entire experience was a tremendous honour."
Below is an article from the Bloor West Villager, which celebrates Ms Brett's participation in the humanitarian mission to Rwanda.

Physiotherapist travels to Rwanda

Article source:

A physiotherapist in Bloor West since 1967, Evelyn Brett is familiar with the human body's limits. On a trip to Rwanda as a member of a Canadian delegation of physiotherapists, she was struck by the resiliency of the human spirit.

Stories and reminders of Rwanda's 1994 genocide permeated her trip. But what was equally evident, she said, was the people's will to reconcile, to pick up and move forward despite all odds.

Brett described wheelchairs cobbled together from plastic garden furniture and bicycle tires. "Ambulances" in the countryside were often stretchers with runners who would ferry patients between towns.

"They're such lovely people I don't know how they had such genocide there," she said. "It's amazing how they're coping."

The country has very few resources and very little trained manpower. Rwanda has 120 trained physiotherapists compared to Canada's 10,040, according to the World Confederation of Physical Therapy's (WCPT) website.

In 1997 the Association of Rwandan Physiotherapy was accepted into the WCPT. The confederation held a conference that year in Vancouver for its member associations. Physiotherapists from across the world met and exchanged resources and knowledge to improve the practices in their respective countries. The newly minted Rwandan association was unable to attend; its members could not get visas to enter Canada.

In November last year, 26 physiotherapists from across Canada formed a delegation to visit their colleagues in Rwanda. Brett, an Etobicoke resident, moved to Canada from Ireland in 1964 and has run a private practice in Bloor West Village since 1967. She said the trip was half-cultural, half-professional exchange. The intention was to start a sustainable relationship that both sides could learn from.

"You have to learn about their culture first," Brett said. "You can't just go over there and say, 'You have to do this and this.' It's not that simple."

Mike Landry, an assistant professor at the University of Toronto, led the delegation. He said that high levels of poverty led to a high rate of debilitating diseases. Malnutrition causes many children to suffer from congenital conditions such as cerebral palsy, and amplifies the conditions the aging population suffers from, he added.

"Outside of (Rwanda's capital) Kigali, it's about as rural and poverty stricken as you can find," he said. "(In Rwanda) we're not too concerned about sprained ankles and sore shoulders."

He said a relationship was established with Rwandan therapists and health centres and will continue on a "grassroots" basis.

"This year will be an interesting year because we have two or three groups who are planning to return."

Many of the needs - such as more money and manpower - are obvious, Brett said. She is thinking of ways to help the country get the most out of the resources it has. A one or two-year program at the Kigali Institute of Health (KIH) could provide therapists with assistants. She said regionally based therapists could then supervise outreach workers who could access more rural areas.

She also pointed out that many of the teachers at the KIH are expatriates who often do not stay in the country for very long. Fully trained Rwandan teachers and researchers the country's health professionals would be able to gain a greater focus on their country's needs, she said.

Money and material resources may be Rwanda's most pressing need, but without education resources they are often ineffective Brett said. She cited the case of an orphanage that was experiencing about eight cases of malaria a week. When mosquito nets were donated the number of cases dropped to about six per week. Health officials found the children

discarding the nets to escape the heat. "They needed to be taught about malaria - why you get it and how you get it," she said. "In the last seven months they've had no new cases of malaria."

Brett is working with her colleagues in Canada and Rwanda to develop initiatives that will help Rwanda's physiotherapists further their practice. She runs the High Park and Bloor West Physiotherapy and Orthopaedic Sports Medicine Centre. For more information about her efforts call 416-767-8717.
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