“In the few years I’ve been working with MOKA, we’ve never done anything like this before, it was a ton of fun to see my worlds colliding and meshing so well. This kind of community partnership is so beneficial for everyone involved, and I know both sides came away with useful knowledge.”
Steve Exoo, Specialized Mentor of Community Supports and SOTA member who organized the event.
MOKA teamed up with the Grand Rapids Community College (GRCC) Student Occupational Therapy Association (SOTA) to put on an event for the groups in Kent Community Supports. The 5 groups involved rotated through 6 different stations, where they participated in activities facilitated by SOTA members from GRCC.
The activities were facilitated by two or three occupational therapy (OT) assistant students and were designed to be fun and enjoyable while targeting specific goals within the scope of practice of OT practitioners.
The first activity was creating and decorating Christmas cards, where individuals were encouraged to make decisions about their cards and express their creativity while working on fine motor skills as they used the available craft supplies.
The second activity was a craft that involved the persons served selecting skills and positive personality traits. While this didn’t allow for the creative freedom that the Christmas cards did, the individuals’ ability to follow directions and steps was tested, and they had to self-examine in order to select appropriate skills and traits that would be added to the craft.
The third activity was decorating (and eating) Christmas cookies. Here the focus was on discussing their designs and favorite Christmas traditions while enjoying their cookies.
The fourth activity was centered around learning different coping skills that the individuals could use in their day-to-day lives. Persons served played a variation of bingo where they had to match different coping skills with pictures on their bingo cards and then had the chance to discuss the different coping skills they discovered in the activity.
The fifth activity was a session of yoga that promoted relaxation and proper breathing techniques. The poses were selected to allow for the individuals to participate no matter what their physical abilities are.
The sixth and final activity was assembling care packages for homeless people in Grand Rapids. The packages included items like band-aids, nail clippers, and socks. People were assigned tasks and given directions of how many of each item was supposed to go in each package.
For the MOKA groups, it was a breath of fresh air after many months of restricted activities due to the pandemic and a chance for them to gain new skills and meet new people. “In the few years I’ve been working with MOKA, we’ve never done anything like this before,” said Steve Exoo, Specialized Mentor of Community Supports and SOTA member who organized the event. “It was a ton of fun to see my worlds colliding and meshing so well. This kind of community partnership is so beneficial for everyone involved, and I know both sides came away with useful knowledge.” The individuals gained new skills and took home some gifts, the MOKA staff learned new activities and techniques they can use with their groups, and the students practiced planning and leading activities with a population they could encounter in their careers. “It was a smooth flow of the individuals working with people they never met before. The individuals were engrossed in the activities and went home happy people,” said Debbi Weiss, Mentor of Community Supports.
Creating opportunities for independence is a major part of MOKA’s mission, and many of the activities encouraged people served to make decisions that were supported by both the students and the MOKA staff. “I found it amazing how something as small as providing a choice of color and ability to complete an activity by themselves created such joy and sense of accomplishment,” remarked Kendra Kalnins, a SOTA member who led the cookie decorating activity.
It was clear to see by the GRCC students that the MOKA groups are full of friendships and close relationships. In a debriefing session after the event, the students commented on the many personalities that stood out to them and the fun interactions throughout the event. “The participants had a thrill from being out in the community with friends,” said Tanya Dyer, 2021 SOTA President and GRCC student. “They are a tight-knit community and are able to bring a lot of joy to those around them,” added Liz Mulder, another GRCC student.
The event was an overwhelming success, with both the MOKA groups and SOTA members coming away with a fun and valuable experience. The students did an excellent job of explaining and facilitating the activities, the Mentors showed care and excitement as they assisted people served in participating.