D.P.T. Class of 2021 TeamGO Sends Humanitarian Aid to Dominica
It was an ambitious project when it started in 2019 and even a global pandemic could not stop it from coming to fruition.
On January 4, 2021 at 7:00 a.m., a trailer filled with 1,500 pounds of humanitarian goods started its journey from Valhalla to the Caribbean island of Dominica—the result of the Doctor of Physical Therapy (D.P.T.) Class of 2021 global outreach community service project. The goods were collected, sorted and packed up by members of the group dubbed TeamGO: Erin Dailey, Errin Donahue, Kenedy Fraleigh, Kelly Garcia, Joe Iarocci, Victoria Jelenek, Alexa Jimenez, Steven Juca, Nicole Marsh, Clay Nelms, Silvia Roman, Kasey Rubenstein and Alex Straley.
Known as the "Nature Isle of the Caribbean," Dominica was devastated by Hurricane Maria, a category five storm in 2017. In the spring of 2019, Mr. Vaughn Clarke, a citizen of Dominica who lives in the area, recounted the devastating effects of Maria on his homeland to the D.P.T. students who were embarking on their community service projects. The students responded with enthusiasm, energy and ingenuity. After much planning, TeamGO spent many hours coordinating collection drives, repairing, cleaning, sorting and packing donated goods.
They also had to raise funds to cover the cost of the shipment which included three shipping cartons filled with canned food, more than 1,000 items of clothing, 50 pairs of footwear, wheelchairs, commodes, walkers, crutches, stethoscopes and blood pressure cuffs and items that can be used for child development such as bicycles and balls. The students had to use their resourcefulness to disassemble the bicycles and package them to save on precious cargo space. The shipment also included a reinforced treatment plinth and a stationary recumbent bicycle.
With boxes packed and ready to go, the actual shipment of the TeamGO project was delayed because the COVID-19 pandemic, making the cost of the original strategy out of reach. But the project got back on track when an alternative affordable means was identified and it was deemed safe to do so. Still recovering from the deadly storm, Dominica is now suffering from the effects of the pandemic including the livelihood of many from a lack of tourism so the shipment will arrive at a time when it is especially needed.
Catherine Curtis, P.T., Ed.D., assistant professor of physical therapy and TeamGO co-advisor, was impressed with the students’ creativity and dedication to making this first-time project happen, despite many obstacles. She was equally appreciative of Mr. Clarke who guided the students throughout the project, keeping them focused on the island’s specific medical, rehabilitation and humanitarian needs and working alongside them to clean, wrap, pack and load donated goods. “His carpentry skills, aided by a few of the students, made a broken treatment plinth better than new and his shipping logistics knowledge was absolutely essential,” said Dr. Curtis. Mr. Clarke will travel to Dominica to meet up with the container and help unload and distribute the items on the island.
“From our first meeting, our ideas began to flourish, often feeding off each other’s insight and energy. We certainly benefited from teamwork and selflessness,” said TeamGO member Erin Dailey. “My family lives by the saying ‘There is more to life than what’s in your mirror’ and I cannot stress how relevant that statement is in our current state. Now is the time to look past our own wants and apparent needs and realize that there are so many people less fortunate than us right now. The power of performing just one kind act a day can be everything for someone. During a time of immense struggle, I am relieved that the people of Dominica will have one less worry following the arrival of these shipments.”
Dr. Curtis and TeamGO are grateful to the New York Medical College community for their support in making this project a success, from the donations from students, faculty and staff, to the facilities team who provided a storage area and helped with the pallets, and everyone who helped with fundraising and the shipping process. “This project has truly been about one community helping another with the absolute reward coming on distribution day. What kept us all going were the thoughts of the faces, a child with a new bike or an older adult with a new walker making his or her day just a little easier.”
“There were lots of hoops to jump through – but we did it!” said Gale Lavinder, P.T. Ed.D., assistant professor of physical therapy and TeamGO co-advisor.