The 2017 bursary recipients pictured with WCPT Chief Executive Jonathon Kruger and WCPT President Emma Stokes. Photo: Stephen C

The gift of congress: bursaries that change lives

Nineteen physical therapists from 14 countries have received bursaries enabling them to attend the WCPT Congress in Cape Town – and the results could be career changing, they believe.

WCPT and the South African Society of Physiotherapy have run a joint initiative to raise funds for congress bursaries. Money has been donated from many sources, including a group of physiotherapists who graduated from the University of the Witwatersrand in 1969, and have met at WCPT congresses since 1995.

Among the recipients are Herné Rautenbach and Lizaan Scheepers, physiotherapy students at Stellenbosch University, South Africa. They say attending the bursaries has made experiencing the world of physical therapy a possibility for them.

“It’s amazing to be here,” says Lizaan. “We wouldn’t have this experience anywhere else because we’re still studying.”

Piniel Kambey’s bursary paid for his congress registration fee, but he still had an eight-hour journey to get to Cape Town from Tanzania. Fortunately, the congress experience began on the plane, where he sat next to a Canadian physiotherapy professor also on their way to congress.

“We shared a lot of information together,” says Piniel. “Attending this congress has been very important to me because I’m very interested in experimental research, particularly in neurology. I’m learning a lot from the sessions. When I get back to my country, I think I’ll be able to motivate my colleagues to engage much more in research.”

For Hailu Seifu from Ethiopia and Priscillah Ondoga from Uganda, this is the second time that a congress bursary has allowed them to travel to a WCPT Congress. They first met at the Amsterdam congress six years ago, and since then have been in regular contact – with the aim of establishing a sub-regional network of physiotherapists across East Africa.

“We ‘ve been friends ever since Amsterdam,” says Hailu Seifu. “The WCPT Congress is an amazing place to network. It enervates you. The bursaries have given us the chance to see everything that’s going on, and it encourages you that you can do something similar. It means a lot to be able to get together and share your challenges. When we communicate, we become the best we can.”

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