Orphaned children who can’t walk, bend their arms, or use their hands will get much-needed physical therapy during spring break, as a result of a partnership between the University of Central Florida, Orlando, Fla, and the Florida Hospital Foundation, Orlando, Fla.

Thirteen UCF students studying physical therapy will leave March 9 for Kingston, Jamaica, where they will spend a week treating children with special needs living in orphanages.

"These children have likely never had physical therapy before," says Jennifer Tucker, a UCF instructor accompanying the students abroad. "We will be providing some therapy, but more importantly, we will be training those who take care of them so they can continue to get care after we are gone."

Students learned of the trip while taking Tucker’s pediatrics physical therapy course at UCF. The trip is not a requirement, Tucker said, but many students saw it as an opportunity to give back to the community.

UCF students have traveled to Jamaica to help orphans for the past 4 years, as part of an ongoing partnership with the Florida Hospital Foundation outreach program SHARES International. The nonprofit organization helps coordinate the trips and provides some financial support. However, the students are responsible for the plane fare and will not be paid for their services.

The students don’t see it as giving up their spring break. "I didn’t even think about it as working during my spring break," says Sharon Sampson, who plans to graduate in spring 2010. "I am eager to work with the children, connect with them, and come up with a good plan that will help them. I think we all want to help the children as much as possible, so we can make a difference in their lives."

Tucker and two other clinicians will travel with the students and help supervise their work. The group expects to be back on March 14.

[Source: Medical News Today]