A Master of Occupational Therapy student recently led a project to renovate the entrance of a fieldwork site in Austin as a way to thank the community that supported her during her fieldwork.
When Aniqa Shahbaz, a Master of Occupational Therapy (MOT) student, began her fieldwork in June at Inspire South day rehabilitation in Austin, Texas, she knew immediately that she wanted to make a positive impact on the mental health organization as a way to offer thanks to the supportive staff and clients who hosted her. Her ambition to help others stems from her upbringing. “My parents raised me to know that if I see a place where I can serve, to serve,” she explains.
Shahbaz started by approaching her academic fieldwork coordinator, Paula Planck Lowrey, to ask how she could lead a project to transform the entrance to Inspire South. “During her four weeks of fieldwork, Aniqa instantly connected with the staff and clients,” says Lowrey, who also serves as an assistant faculty member. “This project allowed her to give back to a community that supported her as a student.”
After coordinating with faculty and leadership, Shahbaz discussed her plan to renovate the organization’s entrance with the organization’s owner. “Everyone was very supportive,” she says. Next, she enlisted fellow students. As the president of the Student Occupational Therapy Association (SOTA) on the Austin campus, Shahbaz sent a call for volunteers and began fundraising to purchase supplies.
During two Saturday afternoons in October, more than 30 students, including Jordan Adams and Tefiney Saju, and faculty came together to clean the room, which included everything from removing staples from the walls and spackling minor cracks to donating the furniture at the director’s request.
Next, they improved the space by changing the light bulbs and painting the room—transforming it from a green room that was a bit too loud to a calming, fossil-gray space. They finished by hanging new bulletin boards, installing shelves, and arranging desks and chairs.
Shahbaz doesn’t plan to stop here. “There are resources everywhere,” she says. For example, she and the SOTA members were able to spend only a few hundred dollars they raised to purchase paint and supplies from Habitat for Humanity to make this project possible. “I hope the next SOTA president will help keep our momentum going at this or another clinic.” But, above all else, she says, “I hope I’ve inspired our members to volunteer and organize projects whenever they see a need in our community.”