Occupational Therapy Fieldwork in Morocco


Occupational Therapy Fieldwork in Morocco

February 16, 2018

Photo: NYIT occupational therapy students and faculty members in Essaouira where they had the opportunity to see goats that climb argan trees to eat the nuts.

In early January, a group of 12 students in the NYIT occupational therapy program traveled to Morocco for the first time on a 10-day fieldwork experience trip with Glocal Impacts, a service learning organization. Kelly Lavin, O.T.D., O.T.R./L., assistant professor in NYIT School of Health Professions, and Lillian Niwagaba, Ph.D., assistant professor and director of the Center for Global Health, accompanied the students; four occupational therapy students and Professor Tara Collins, DHS, O.T.R./L., from Touro College also joined the group.

The students worked with people of all age groups at a number of clinics across seven cities in Morocco, including Casablanca, Marrakech, Essaouira, Rabat, Kenitra, Fes, and Azrou. They visited MAIR Neurorehabilitation Clinic and the only nursing home in Morocco, which also serves as an orphanage, as well as a wheelchair clinic and the King Mohamed VI Rehab School.

People travelled from across Morocco seeking medical advice and evaluation from the team. The future occupational therapists worked with local physiotherapists and provided education to the community. They met with people with a number of disabilities, including children with cerebral palsy, individuals with traumatic brain injuries and Down syndrome, and amputee and stroke victims.


Student Marlena Perillo playing with a child with Down syndrome at Riad Yamma, a private rehabilitation center for children.

The students used what they learned in the classroom to assess the patients and provide them with the proper care. “It was an extraordinary opportunity to be able to connect with therapists, volunteers and patients in Morocco, where occupational therapy is a new profession. We had the inspiring experience to be a part of the advocacy and efforts. I’ve learned so much from this trip, the Moroccan people, and the kind of therapist I hope to be,” said occupational therapy student Marlena Perillo.

For example, they assessed children with cerebral palsy and educated their parents on the dangers of pressure sores, the importance of proper seating, and showed them techniques to evaluate skin integrity. They also played with the children as a therapeutic means to facilitate the child’s active engagement and built wheelchairs for two of the children. The students also met with individuals with lower extremity limb amputation and explained why it is imperative they maintain healthy skin.


Leigh McCarthy, Jessica Porada, and Ashley Zizzo put a wheelchair together for a child with cerebral palsy.

During their stay, the group stepped outside of their clinical roles to help provide much-needed aid to the communities they visited. They raised $1,900 to benefit Clinic Azrou, a privately funded clinic in danger of closing, which provides services to children with traumatic brain injuries and cerebral palsy, and distributed clothing, school supplies, toys, toiletries, sneakers, and shoes to three clinics including Amical Marocaine Des Imc, Moulay Ali Institute for Rehabiliation, and Association Wli.

In addition to providing students with a unique learning experience, the trip will also help to assess whether Glocal Impacts is a potential partner for occupational therapy students (and possibly other disciplines), and determine if the site can be used as a future destination for the Center for Global Health, which currently works with facilities in Ghana and Haiti.

The students also took time to enjoy all that Morocco has to offer. They toured Hassan II Mosque (the largest mosque in Morocco), the palace of Mohamad V, and went on a camel ride and to a traditional outdoor Moroccan folklore performance.