Blind World Magazine

Kenya.
Massage offers light to blind students.




Saanich News, BC, Canada.
Wednesday, September 06, 2006.




There's more to the African Touch Massage Academy Project than massage training.


It's a small business development project set to provide students - picked from slums and blind East African communities - with the opportunity to improve their lives.


It's training to build confidence and provide skills towards self-sustainability and self-determination.


Local registered massage therapist Yvonne Poulin, the braintrust behind the visionary project, has been working on the concept for years and plans for the first 30-person class to be held in Nairobi, Kenya.


"These 30 people can then support their own families," she said, noting that this can thwart the cycle of poverty in their family and their community.


The plan is a recipe for success, Poulin is sure. And she knows there's a market for therapeutic massage in Nairobi: she used to practise there herself.


A few years ago, she taught a struggling girl named Dorothy the skills of the trade.


"Before there wasn't a lot of hope for her."


However, after Dorothy learned theraputic massage, her life blossomed. She was able to support herself, and moved out of the slums into her own apartment.


Poulin left Dorothy with her massage clinic and reunited with her when she returned to the region last winter.


"To see one life has changed, it inspires me to keep going," said Poulin.


However, Poulin's latest trip to Kenya also reminded her of the need to make the massage academy training officially recognized in Kenya.


Poulin was devasted to find that because Dorothy didn't have any accreditation, the European doctors stopped referring their patients to her. The massage clinic fizzled.


"That was a little tough," she admitted.


But all was not lost.


Through her massage training, Dorothy gained enough business and life skills to support herself by selling her art and massaging part-time for a performing arts group.


"It really ties it all together," Poulin explained of her work to get the massage academy's curriculum recognized in Kenya. Ultimately, she hopes her students will be recognized as medical service providers by insurers - just like in Canada.


This is a hefty task, considering there's no accrediting body in Kenya; however, Poulin developed the curriculum with this goal in mind.


A group of 12 RMTs developed the four-month curriculum to include lessons on anatomy, first aid, HIV/AIDs, and treatment of such ailments as whiplash, lower back pain and tension headaches.


The curriculum was recognized by the Association of Massage Therapists and Wholistic Practitioners in Canada and is now in the hands of the Kenyan Institute of Education.


Along with curriculum development, Poulin has established two seperate societies to get the project afoot - the African Touch, a non-governmental organization based in the slums of Nairobi, Kenya and the African Touch Education Fund Society, a Canadian registered nonprofit society to facilitate North Americanfundraising for the African Touch.


With those logistics underway, Poulin is prepared for a big donor or grant, from either Kenya or Canada, to run the project.


She's took on her own fundraising projects too and even organized a provincewide Massage for Africa fundraiser last winter.


The project is now in its infancy and she has big plans for the future.


After the Nairobi class completes their training, she hopes to move the mobile massage academy to other east African locations. Kampala, Uganda is slated for 2007, Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania for 2009, and Mombasa, Kenya in 2010.


"I feel like we are on the verge of this happening," she said.


"And when it does happen, we'll be ready for it."



http://www.saanichnews.com/portals-code/list.cgi?paper=28&cat=46&id=722923&more=




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