Faith in humanity ‘Re:stored’ with student placements at food charity

Date 5.04.2023

A graduate whose outlook changed thanks to a study placement is repaying the favour for a new generation of budding occupational therapists.

Hannah Osborne graduated from her Occupational Therapy degree in 2008, but even after 15 years still looks back fondly on her time at UON. She says: “I chose Northampton because the occupational therapy school was one of the longest established in the UK, with a good reputation.

“The course was varied, I made friends for life, and I gained experience of many aspects of ‘OT’ with the placement opportunities, including a novel one at what is now Age UK. They’d never had an occupational therapist working with them, so it was eye-opening to see my profession from their perspective and how people could overcome life barriers.

Hannah’s occupational therapy career started the ‘traditional way’, working as an ‘OT’ for the health service providing elderly rehabilitation in the community followed by many years at a general hospital on the acute medical and accident and emergency wards.

But that pioneering placement at Age UK left an indelible mark. In time, she did a professional U-turn and returned to the charity sector as a support worker at Re:store, the food bank and charity in Northampton.

She continues: “I was intrigued to see how an ‘OT’ could slot in at a food bank. We help people who are isolated or on the fringes of society and run activities to ensure they have access to good food and nutrition. I wanted to bring my occupational therapy knowledge and skills to bear and see how we could better support our community to be more independent.

“We are specialists in understanding people as ‘occupational beings’ (an occupation being any activity that makes us who we are). If this doesn’t happen, it can cause problems and affect our health and wellbeing. I wanted people to thrive and be their best selves by using ‘OT’. It’s been a rewarding journey and I was reemployed as an Occupational Therapist, a role I’m still enjoying now.”

Following Covid and with the country still in the grip of the Cost-of-Living Crisis, their services have been in great demand. Extra help was needed which is where Hannah’s contacts at University of Northampton’s Occupational Therapy Team came in handy.

She created an entirely new student placement, meaning each year, one final year student has the option of three-months working at Re:store, getting valuable, real-world working experience at a local charity.

One of the students to take the opportunity is Nihad Mohammed. She says: “I have learned a lot from this placement. I’ve gained first-hand experience of how parents (mostly mothers) have coped with ‘occupational deprivation’ and how important it is to recognise this and the effects it has on their health and wellbeing, and that of their children.

“I am also supporting maternal health with group sessions to discuss the difficulties mothers face looking after their children, and to signpost them to other services that can support them. The past few weeks have opened my eyes and educated me about the different life situations that affect individuals’ mental health, bringing what I learn in the classroom to life.”

Find out more about Occupational Therapy (BSc) at University of Northampton.