A Lisburn graduate has brought her experience of volunteering overseas back to Northern Ireland as she takes her next step on the career ladder.
Susan Carlisle graduated with BSc Hons in Occupational Therapy from Ulster University, at a ceremony at the Belfast Waterfront on July 6.
The inspiring student travelled to Sri Lanka in January this year to complete a voluntary placement at a facility for people with a range of mental and physical disabilities, ranging in age from young children to vulnerable adults aged up to 40 years old.
During their time volunteering at Daya Nivasa, a Mother Theresa orphanage in the city of Kandy, Susan and her fellow UU graduate Catherine Wells were able to start the use of a sensory room, enabling the younger children to interact with each other and giving them the opportunity to enjoy new experiences, play, movement and fun.
“My time in Sri Lanka has really opened my eyes to how differently people with disabilities are treated in different cultural, social and economic environments,” Susan explained.
“Seeing first-hand the severity of disability and the lack of resources to support these vulnerable individuals to live full, meaningful and dignified lives was incredibly heartbreaking.
“This experience has driven home how important it is for me to work collaboratively with my clients to ensure their values and beliefs are always considered to provide meaningful, compassionate and culturally sensitive treatments.”
The Lisburn woman says she has returned home with a newfound respect for the healthcare system in Northern Ireland.
“This experience has opened my mind to the diverse range of settings that occupational therapists could use their skills in, outside of traditional healthcare settings. I feel so fortunate for our healthcare system, we often take it for granted but this experience has taught me to really value whatever resources are available to you,” she said.
Susan chose a lateral career move into Occupational Therapy based on a desire to help others.
“I worked in a pharmacy for years and loved being able to help others but I knew I wanted a job that was more hands on,” the 30-year-old continued.
“When I began to look into Occupational Therapy, I realised that this was the job for me; I could use my passion for helping others to promote better health and wellbeing and support my clients to live independently whilst still doing the things that matter most to them.”
As she prepared for graduation last week, Susan revealed that she has already taken her next step on the career ladder, having secured a job as a disability assessor.
“This role for allied health professionals will allow me to integrate all my occupational therapy knowledge and skills and I am ready to put those skills to use,” she said.
Crediting the quality of the UU Occupational Therapy course for giving her the confidence to embark on her new career, Susan added: “I felt Ulster University was a highly respected university that could offer me a high level of education in my chosen allied health field whilst still giving me the option of living close to home.
“I wanted to be able to work alongside clients in order to support and empower them to become more involved in what makes them happy and as an occupational therapy practitioner I am able to do that in a very hands on and practical way.”