Occupational therapists involved in volunteer programmes do so as either a volunteer or as a professional working with volunteers. This study outlines two such programmes: one in regional Queensland, with refugees settling into a life in Australia, and one in Bhutan, with an organisation assisting families of children with disabilities. In both instances, the author has been involved as a volunteer, drawing on her occupational therapy skills, the Person-Environment-Occupation Model and self-determination theory as theoretical frameworks.
This report offers an insight into two geographically and culturally different volunteer programmes, and outlines the potential for occupational therapists to be involved in cross-cultural experiences, within Australia and abroad. In the Australian setting the author is working with newly arrived refugees from Africa, Iran and Iraq in a local community group the Toowoomba Refugee and Migrant Service. Within the Bhutanese setting the author is working with the Ability Bhutan Society, an organisation established by a group of local parents with the initial aim of sharing experiences and information relating to their children with disabilities.
The descriptions of each volunteering experience outline the opportunities for facilitating the development of independence, self-determination and acquisition of new roles in two cross-cultural communities by an occupational therapist working as a volunteer.
An occupational therapist's ability to assess the interaction between a person or organisation's skills, the environment in which that person or organisation is functioning, and the desired occupational outcomes of that person or organisation, enables a unique and valuable contribution as a volunteer.