Thursday, July 25, 2013

Appropriate Paper Technology (APT)

I wanted to post about a course that I just took over in the UK on Appropriate Paper Technologies (APT).  APT uses basic engineering principles to make weak materials strong (People Potential, 2013). The weak materials include paper and cardboard which are readily available at a low cost in developing countries. These materials can be recycled into surprisingly strong items of furniture. According to Paper Furniture Social Enterprises (2013), APT techniques were originally developed in Zimbabwe by Bevill Packer, who made furniture, toys and household items out of readily available paper materials. Today the use of these basic engineering principles and knowledge contributed by trained therapists has led to the development of specially adapted chairs, standing frames, ride-on animals and wheel chair inserts for severely disabled children in various parts of the world.

APT chair with insert
APT Walker

There are multiple advantages to using APT. First the raw materials such as cardboard are available and free (or very low cost) in Ghana. The tools needed to make the equipment are not expensive; most APT can be made using a kitchen knife. As noted by People Potential (2013) advantages of APT go beyond the lower cost; “the advantages include the versatility as unusual shapes and designs can be made according to the needs of the child, the measurements and the impairment”.

Saw, ruler, knife, roofing nails, bowl
Flour and Water make Paste
One of the barriers that our team of therapists/students has faced is the lack of available durable medical equipment, positioning equipment, and play materials designed for children with physical disabilities. While we have been creative in adapting some school and play materials, we continue to be challenged by the lack of equipment available for facilitating appropriate positions for functional and play tasks. I took, the APT 5-day course this summer to 1. learn a new skill set and 2. determine if our need could be met through the use of APT to build (in-country) equipment designed specifically for the children that we see in Ghana. 

Daniel and I took this course together and thoroughly enjoyed our time out on the English countryside with Jean, Ken, Dena, Catherine, and Flynn the dog (also a huge thank you to Richard for building the riding platform for my horse, see pictures below!). While I still need to practice my APT skills (and work on becoming more precise with my measurements  no eye-balling allowed!), I feel confident that this new skill set will be put to use soon as I continue to work with children in Ghana and provide learning opportunities for VCU students. Here are a few pictures from our trip:

Daniel with APT Toy

Daniel and Richard- Day 4, Horse has Wheels
APT sofa

APT double bed I slept in

Me with Horse Frame made on Day 2

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Tentative Dates for 2014 Study Abroad in Ghana

If you are interested in the 2014 study abroad trip to Ghana and want to block off some dates on your calendar, it looks like we will be traveling the last two weeks in May (May 18-31, 2014). Of course we will not have exact travel dates until much later, but hopefully this helps in planning/scheduling.