Occupational therapy is a crucial component of our Headway program year round, and this month, we’re celebrating our occupational therapists to honor the incredible impact they’ve made in our community.
Here at Bastion, we have two amazing occupational therapists who approach their roles as both a career and a calling. They work in individual and group settings to help our Headway participants maximize independence and quality of life.
“When I heard about occupational therapy, it was as if they created the profession for me, because I feel so well suited to it and honestly very lucky to be a part of this profession,” Clinical Director Rachel Schwenk says. “We are the rehabilitation professionals that really focus on real life daily tasks as the intervention to maximize people's potential.”
Occupational therapist Caity Bower was drawn to the field because it allows her to be a continuous learner at any stage of her career, merging meaningful treatment interventions like play, socialization, music and art with the science of neurology and physiotherapy.
Through this holistic approach, Caity and Rachel look at the whole person to help them address both daily self care needs and higher level needs around cognition, work training, volunteer exploration, and social development.
“At its core, it’s client-centered, which I think is the best modality and treatment for veterans. And I also think it's the most ethical form of treatment,” Caity says. “When trying to create meaningful daily change in a person's life, OTs can be on the ground, in the community, and in the home.”
Occupational therapy is vital to veterans transitioning to civilian life because it helps them practice real life skills and tasks in a non-simulated setting. Through Headway, they’re also supported by their fellow participants, with peer-mentor relationships developing organically within the group. This creates a unique environment for our OTs to work with participants in innovative ways.
“Only 3% of occupational therapists work in this mental health or community type of space,” Rachel says. “And so it's a very niche practice area for an occupational therapist to be in.”
Both Rachel and Caity are proud of the success of the Headway program and the progress they have seen from participants, and are excited to be a part of Headway’s continuous growth.
“I would say that we've really created a family. And there's no better form of therapy than having the support of a family and a chosen family that we've created here,” Caity says. “It just paves the way for increased meaning in life and increased engagement in what is meaningful to a person. And we do that as a team and as a family.”
We are so grateful for Rachel and Caity’s commitment to our community’s veterans. Their energy, creativity, clinical expertise and compassion have transformed the daily lives of so many veterans at Bastion.
“I feel just immensely blessed to be part of a profession that fiercely advocates and elevates people to the best version of themselves,” Rachel says. “And I hope to be a trailblazing occupational therapist to really prove that our profession deserves a seat at the table with this population, especially in this setting.”
Spring has sprung at Bastion! From our thriving community garden to an abundance of new trees planted by generous volunteers, signs of new life are all around.
Headway participant Nick Valentino has been a leader in developing the community garden, building garden beds of various depths and sizes along with a fully functional chicken coop.
Nick’s carpentry skills combined with staff member Caity Bower’s sustainable gardening knowledge have brought new ideas and possibilities to Bastion’s outdoor spaces, while simultaneously bolstering our food program with fresh fruits, vegetables, and eggs.
“It's free for anyone to go from the neighborhood here at Bastion, they go in there, pick and cook with it themselves because there's herbs grown down there too. But also, for the cooking group that Caity and Rachel do on Fridays, they'll go and pick from the garden and incorporate that in the cooking group that they do for the guys.”
When produce is plentiful, it’s picked and put in the food pantry fridge for residents or used by our two resident chefs, Shantrise Sykes and Sylvia Magee, in their community meals.
Gardening at Bastion is a skill and passion that’s being passed down generationally by resident Clarissa Moramarco, who has been part of the Bastion community for five years. Clarissa hosts twice monthly garden meetings for the children of Headway participants, and is working to include more resident kids in the future.
Clarissa has been gardening since she was 14, taking over for her father, a Navy veteran, after a heart attack prevented him from maintaining their outdoor spaces himself.
“I took over and I just started loving gardening and I love being outdoors and I like growing things I can give to people,” Clarissa says. “I also really wanted to combine the gardening with arts and crafts and cooking. So that's kind of what makes it unique.”
Clarissa likes to begin her sessions with crafts to help the kids settle down and give them time to chat and connect. On top of learning basic gardening techniques and the science behind how plants grow, the kids have also created custom plaques and plant kit containers.
“Each plant holder is as unique as the children,” Clarissa says.
Thank you to Nick, Caity, and Clarissa for promoting a culture of sustainable gardening and hands-on learning here at Bastion! And thank you to Nola Tree Project and the volunteers of SCA Health for donating your time and energy to help bring new trees and plant life to our community.