Published on June 23rd, 20140
International Communication Project 2014 – Part I
This article has been republished from the February 2014 edition of RCSLT’s bulletin. It appears in its original form; we have not edited it for style or grammar.
Please note that this article was originally published when Speech-Language and Audiology Canada (SAC) was called the Canadian Association of Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists (CASLPA).
Helping the world to speak
It was late Spring in 2011. The first year of the Giving Voice campaign was at its height, when the campaign team at RCSLT received a message from our colleagues at Speech Pathology Australia. Inspired by Giving Voice, they had been talking to the New Zealand Speech and Language Therapy Association about an international collaboration to raise awareness of communication needs. The question was: did we want to come on board?
I was in Ireland when the first global conference call took place with the American Speech and Hearing Association and the Canadian Association of Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists. From the start, we were mindful that RCSLT members would want to be convinced of the usefulness of such an initiative. We felt that it would:
- Provide a fresh and interesting angle for our Giving Voice awareness-raising campaigning.
- Build opportunities for RCSLT members who are or are thinking of working abroad.
It is certainly the case that our relationships with sister organisations have deepened and widened as the work has gone on. However, we also felt that there was another case for international working:
- To put communication disability squarely on the agenda of international health discussions.
- To contribute to building services for people with speech language and communication needs in countries where they are limited or absent.
Two years on, the International Communication Project 2014 (ICP 2014) is now being formally launched.
ICP 2014 will allow us to refresh and expand our Giving Voice awareness-raising campaigning work – with new merchandise and a fresh angle for events and communications. There is a range of activities to get you started on the Giving Voice website at www.givingvoiceuk.org/icp2014, but we know from experience just how creative and original RCSLT members can be.
One particular approach will be to involve the RCSLT members you know who are working or have worked abroad, any SLTs from overseas working with you and the different communities you work with. For example, one London service with many languages on its caseload is already planning to use ICP 2014 to reach out to them.
Building capacity and influencing
The organisations that have come together are known as the Mutual Recognition Associations – the MRA. These represent the six countries where qualifications and professional body membership are mutually recognised (see http://tinyurl.com/pkdtf59 for more details). However, we acknowledged very quickly that for this work to go forward, it will not do to have only a small number of English-speaking countries from the rich world involved.
The good news is that there are already SLTs in a range of countries, and RCSLT members too, working to build capacity and find models of service that will work in a context where the ratio of professionals to population is far lower than in the UK (see table). And it’s not one-way; there are lessons from these contexts that we can learn in the UK.
We hope that ICP 2014 will provide a banner, focus and an impetus for this work. At least one conference is being planned in Asia – the first of its kind – and speech and language therapy organisations in a range of countries are seeking to come on board. The International Association of Logopedists and Phoniatrics – the closest thing to a world organisation for SLTs – has formally endorsed the project.
Although the World Health Organisation is rightly focused on issues such as poverty, women’s health and big killer diseases, there is space – particularly in its important work on disability – to ensure that communication problems are recognised properly and appropriately on an international scale. This will be longer-term work that will extend beyond 2014.
What’s in it for me?
If you are thinking that this sounds all very well, but that your focus today is on the size of your caseload and the budget cuts about to hit your service, here are some thoughts for you:
- First, Giving Voice has shown us just how vital it is to keep raising awareness of who we are and what we do. Successful campaigning needs new and fresh approaches. ICP 2014 won’t be our only campaign this year but it’s an important one.
- Second, a significant number of RCSLT members work abroad during their careers, and a lot of SLTs from around the world come to the UK. Strengthening our international work means a better experience for all.
- Third, as an organisation and a profession we need to demonstrate our commitment to diversity. This is a chance to do so.
- Fourth, you all became therapists to help people with communication and swallowing needs. In large parts of the world the chance of getting a service right now is close to zero. It’s only right that this should change.
Start thinking international
Like with the Giving Voice campaign, ICP 2014 is your opportunity to showcase the vital, life-transforming work of SLTs, both at home and around the world. You can use the campaign to spread the message that communication is vital, and that the ability to communication is a basic right.
During the year, we want you to put on events, meet local decision-makers and show the world the important work you do. Alongside the existing Giving Voice resources and merchandise, we have put together a new campaign toolkit, with tips and ideas on how to work in ICP 2014. You can also order branded merchandise and we’ll be adding to the resources and campaign guides as the campaign progresses.
We are looking forward to sharing monthly video blogs from SLTs working around the world. To kick off the project we have SLT Jessica Drake telling us about her experience of working in Singapore. To watch Jessica’s video, visit the Giving Voice website.
We’ll be updating the Giving Voice website regularly with news about the campaign, and keeping Giving Voice champions up to date via our regular monthly mailing list (if you’re not a champion already, sign up today).
Sign the public pledge of support
- I recognise that the ability to communicate is a basic human right.
- I recognise that everyone has the potential to communicate.
- I give my support to the millions of people around the world who have communication disorders that prevent them from experiencing fulfilling lives and participating equally and fully in their communities.
- I believe that people with communication disabilities should have access to the support they need to realise their full potential.
Visit: www.communication2014.com to add your name to the thousands who have already signed the ICP 2014 pledge.
Claire’s work in Rwanda
Claire Cahoon is working in Rwanda through Voluntary Services Overseas. She says, “The main part of my role involves supporting a hospital to develop its own speech and language therapy service, and I also input into a project that aims to identify and include children with communication and hearing impairment in mainstream education.
“To put my role in context, Rwanda has a population of 12 million, and only three SLTs. Very limited understanding exists here about the role of speech and language therapy and rehabilitation services, and services for children and adults with disabilities are few and far between.
“Raising awareness of communication difficulties is a vital first step in developing and commissioning speech and language therapy services in developing countries. Increased understanding and visibility of our profession will help to ‘put it on the agenda’ with the ministries of health and education, and lead to, for example, state funding for students to attend a SLT degree course and state-funded SLT positions.”
If you would be interested in taking over from Claire in Sept 2014 for 18 months, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Speech and language therapy around the world
|Country||Number of SLTs in 2014||Ratio to population|