Wedge Gardens triumphs over obstacles

The completion of Wedge Garden’s obstacle course, a project initiated and completed by the occupational therapy (OT) department, has seen yet another dimension being added to the Rand Aid substance abuse treatment centre’s already diverse treatment programme.

The head of the Wedge Gardens OT department, Kendra Neethling, says that while the project was completed with the help of Rand Aid grounds manager George Vermeulen and his team, the patients were involved every step of the way.

On Friday, October 13, the obstacle course was officially opened. The occasion saw fierce competition between patients from Johannesburg’s Hope House, Wedge Gardens and Rand Aid staff members, with each team racing to complete the obstacle course in record time!

“A lot of excitement, anticipation, energy and enthusiasm was carried through the morning. The obstacle course encouraged team work, co-operation, effective communication, problem solving and internal motivation, not to mention humour and the ability to let go and have some fun!” says Kendra.

Kendra introduced the day with a brief background into the rationale behind the obstacle course’s construction. “I noticed a need for greater leisure exploration, more productive time use and healthy activities which offer an alternative to drug and alcohol use.

“As the year progressed and I continued to witness that there was an increasing need for skills development in areas such as work/productivity – including judgement, planning and decision making; social and self skills – including self-esteem, communication, conflict resolution and emotion regulation; and leisure/coping skills – including building resilience, positive emotions and flow-activities; I decided to work with the patients’ strengths to formulate a treatment programme that would have long-term benefits. This process gave rise to the development of the obstacle course.”

The journey towards the open day had many challenges and successes, she adds.

“I think the highlight of the experience, apart from the skills learnt and the completion of the course itself, was the whole ‘doing process’ engaged in by both the patients and me.

“We worked as a team towards the achievement of a goal. With addicts, this is a huge accomplishment as any attachment or relationship formation is dangerous and vulnerable territory for them.

“Furthermore, setting goals and achieving them is often an elusive concept to people battling substance abuse as their internal motivation tends to be quite low, with high levels of impulsivity and huge limiting fears of failure.

“My pride in being an occupational therapist has been bolstered by witnessing the incredible therapeutic power of activity through the construction of the Wedge Gardens course over the past couple of months. I could not be happier with my patients and our achievement and I cannot wait to witness the use of the course within the therapy programme.”

Kendra concluded her message to all at the open day by saying how fulfilling it is to know that the course will be there for years to come, and will be enjoyed not only by the current patients, but by people who seek help at Wedge Gardens in the future. “One of the greatest ways to develop a sense of meaning and satisfaction is to do something ‘for the greater good’ of others.

“I do my job for my patients, for the people I work with – and that’s the thing I love the most about being an occupational therapist: through occupation and activity I work with my patients to achieve treatment outcomes. There is no greater feeling of success than walking a mile with someone else on their journey and being able to smile at the end.”

For more information, contact Wedge Gardens on 011 430 0320.

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