Pacific profiles: Sylvina Reddy

Name: Sylvina Reddy

Age: 30

Current role: Paediatric Physiotherapist at Frank Hilton Organisation, Fiji.

Sylvina Reddy graduated as a Physiotherapist in 2009 from Fiji School of Medicine. From 2010 to 2016 she worked with the Ministry of Health at the Labasa Divisional Hospital and Colonial War Memorial Hospital in Suva. Currently she is managing the Physiotherapy programs at Hilton Early Intervention Centre and Hilton Special School.

“Our clientele number has increased since last year due to the hard work of our marketing team at FHO. Last year we started the physiotherapy outpatient clinic and started doing home visits. We also conduct playgroup sessions twice a week since we have noticed a lot of young clients coming in with cerebral palsy. We aim towards providing a multidisciplinary team approach to each and every client, and it’s been amazing working alongside other allied health professionals such as speech pathologists, occupational therapists and audiologists.”

Sylvina, a mother of a young child herself, is dedicated to changing the lives of children with disabilities in Fiji and is passionate about supporting their families. “People are so grateful to have you come to their home and provide support.”

MA’s Fundraising Coordinator, Krystal Panakera, sat down with Sylvina to find out more about her role at FHO and what drives her work as Paediatric Physiotherapist in Suva, Fiji.

How long have you been at FHO? Since June 2017.

What do you love about what you do? I have always had a passion to be able to make a difference in the lives of people. Joining FHO has challenged me as a professional. It has put me under a spotlight and made me step up to my position as a Paediatric Physiotherapist. At FHO we are given the opportunity to be able to provide support to many children with disabilities. I am very fortunate to have come here at the right time, just as the wheelchair clinic was being set up.

What challenges do you face in your role? My biggest challenge is to try being at the same level with the parents and caregivers when explaining to them about the condition of their child and how it will affect their mobility, and why physiotherapy intervention is so important for them. It can be really hard to explain to a parent that their child’s disability is permanent. I have to place myself in their shoes when talking to the parents of a child with a disability.

Which MA trainings have you attended? Basic Wheelchair Training in 2017 in Fiji, and I started at FHO just after that. I completed Intermediate Wheelchair Training in 2018, also in Fiji and attended the Pacific Mobility and Rehabilitation Conference in April 2019.

What was the most useful skill you have taken away from the training? Communication with parents and clients. You need to come to their level to be able to gain their trust about what you are doing and why. It is very important to communicate well at every step with both parent and the child.

What does MA do for you in your current role? MA has upskilled me in wheelchair assessments. The training is so motivating – we can really change people’s lives with an appropriate wheelchair. We have been getting very positive feedback from our colleagues and other organisations. We are the only team in Fiji to have 2 physiotherapists, 2 community rehabilitation assistants and a wheelchair technician, all working together. We are so grateful to MA for providing that opportunity.

Why is it important for MA to work in Fiji? Before, we would get other donors who provide all sorts of donated wheelchairs to us. We used to provide just ‘any’ chair to clients without any proper measurement or prescription. Training of physiotherapists and community rehabilitation assistants has upskilled us professionals to be able to provide wheelchairs that are of World Health Organisation standards in Fiji.

It’s difficult to change the cultural beliefs and mindsets of our community regarding children with disabilities (sometimes this is seen as a curse), and they are seen as a burden on the families.

For MA to come into Fiji and train professionals, we are changing these beliefs and making people realise that children with disabilities have the same rights as other children and they have the right to education, right to have personal mobility and to be included in the society. MA has encouraged us to stand on our own two feet with our skills and knowledge from the trainings and get out to the communities, and be advocates for the children with disabilities. This is something Fiji really needs to work on, breaking the stigma around disability. I count myself really fortunate to be working in this area.

What more support could MA offer you? With MA’s support we have come this far with our mobility device services. There’s a lot more awareness now regarding our work at FHO. And families are getting a lot of support from us. Maybe in future, MA could help train us in advanced seating for the really complicated clients.

Also, being involved with the Pacific Rehabilitation and Mobility Conference in April this year was huge for us, it was an opportunity for us to showcase the work we do at FHO and build contacts. I would like to thank MA for the opportunity and in future, I would like to be part of the conferences happening around the region.

To support MA’s work and help continue mentoring and training for dedicated professionals like Sylvina, donate to Motivation Australia today!