The month of August marks Women’s Month and Child Health Month in Mzansi. In her role as head of occupational therapy at Mzansi’s only dedicated children’s hospital, Mereille Pursad is a champion for both women and children’s rights.
“Every single day I get to play with children, using my knowledge and skill set to empower and enable them to see the light in a sometimes very dark tunnel,” says Mereille Pursad, head of occupational therapy at the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital in Cape Town.
Pursad has worked at the hospital since September 2008. Together with her occupational therapy (OT) team she forms an integral part of the multidisciplinary team at the child health facility.
Occupational therapy is a calling
Occupational therapy is a profession that sees each person as an individual with their set of roles, values and skills within a specific environment.
The team at Red Cross works with the young patients to ensure that, amongst others, play (the occupation of a child) is promoted in a safe and meaningful way.
“The key to OT is helping those who are unable to help themselves, or even to see the possibility to help themselves, so that they can become the best version of themselves with or without additional support,” says Pursad.
Her passion and love for children radiates when working with them. “For me it is about systems; equitable systems for all; studying and doing to impact the system to ensure a better outcome for our children,” she says.
“SEEING THAT TWINKLE IN A CHILD’S EYES WHEN YOU CONNECT, AND THEY REALISE THAT ‘THEY HAVE IT’ OR ‘THEY CAN DO IT’ IS ONE OF MY MOST REWARDING MOMENTS.”
“While physical safety tips are often more known, like keeping hot liquids out of reach of kids and pouring cold water in a bath first before adding warm water, child safety [also] includes looking after your child’s mental health,” she explains.
Pursad shares her top tips for child safety this month:
- Give your undivided attention. It fosters connection and a feeling of safety. This helps to ground a child. One should put one’s phone away and spend quality time with one’s children. This ensures child development and proper adult supervision to prevent most accidental injuries.
- Routine and structure set up a child for success. The child better understands what is expected of them and can better cope with the demands of life.
- Positive feedback builds self-confidence. This is a building block for independence. Find the opportunity to commend your child for trying and not only for succeeding. Celebrate their courage to try.