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Penn State DuBois OTA program celebrates 10 years

12/5/2006 —

DuBois – Students, graduates, instructors and supporters of the Penn State DuBois Occupational Therapy Assistant (OTA) program recently celebrated their 10-year anniversary at the campus with dinner and a program by an international OT practitioner.

Tam Humbert, who holds a doctoral degree in education, and an OTA faculty member at Penn State Berks, delivered a motivational program on occupational justice, the belief that all individuals should be encouraged to be involved in a meaningful occupation. Internationally, Humbert said, many people are oppressed, whether by gender, ethnicity, disability or poverty, and are not offered the opportunity to work in a meaningful way. Humbert showed the group in a slide presentation how her work with colleagues in Haiti, Rwanda and Kenya, aim to improve conditions in those countries and help people become meaningfully employed.

In Rwanda, a country still recovering from civil unrest and horrific waves of genocide a decade ago, Humbert spoke of teaching both the Hutu and Tutsi tribe members together how to farm their land. Women were taught how to quilt, and Humbert and her colleagues worked with the nearby rehabilitation center to assist those in need.

"Overall, our goal was to emphasize the importance of being with people, making life work and teaching them by example how to be compassionate," Humbert said.

The challenge in Kenya is overcoming poverty, Humbert said. Relief in terms of support and mission work to Kenya has been internationalized over the past 10 years, and is growing. When Humbert traveled to Haiti, she joined the efforts of a specific program to assist women with disabilities. Haitians with disabilities are typically shunned and encouraged not to participate in community events, so the efforts are aimed toward integrating those with disabilities into society and teaching them particular skills such as embroidery.

In recognizing the anniversary, Penn State DuBois Chancellor Anita McDonald, commended the growth of the program, which includes an OTA club, international outreach from the students and participation by students and faculty at the annual American Occupational Therapy Association conference.

"The faculty commitment to this program and the dedication to the students are outstanding. It's remarkable," McDonald said.

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