Morgan Steele, Staff Writer (msteele@wwc)
Hinds’ Feet Farm, a program dedicated to teaching practical job skills to adults who have suffered traumatic brain injuries, partnered with Warren Wilson this semester through Psychology Professor Jen Mozolic’s biopsychology class.
“I was contacted by Joe Barrett, who is the day program coordinator for the Asheville part of Hinds’ Feet,” said Mozolic. “We decided that we had very common interests.”
Seeing as the Asheville sector of the Hinds’ Feet program was created relatively recently, Barrett has been attempting to find ways to connect program Members with the outside community. The idea behind his efforts was that, through the relationships created, Members could learn and practice new skills in a useful and practical way.
“The Hinds’ Feet Farm goal is to maximize the post injury potential of persons living with brain injury through engagement in meaningful activities that develop of sense of belonging in the surrounding communities,” said Barrett. “The campus culture of Warren Wilson is welcoming, kind, and compassionately friendly.”
“I knew that in the Biopsychology class, we were going to talk about brain injuries, so I wanted the students to have the opportunity to work with people with brain injuries,” said Mozolic. “The class is about the way the brain works and how that supports the behaviors that we see and do… A really important way scientists understand the brain is looking at how the brain doesn’t work when it gets injured… We see people who have injuries to certain parts of the brain and we see how that compromises certain skills and abilities.”
Mozolic and Barrett found that their interests and intentions overlapped and a partnership would fit well within the college Work Program. In September, the Landscaping Crew proposed to Mozolic a great opportunity to get Hinds’ Feet Members on campus.
“Tom and Renee in Landscaping … said, ‘We have all this weeding to do with the native grasses, why don’t you guys come work on that?’” Mozolic said.
It was a substantial first step in Mozolic’s and Barrett’s desired direction for the partnership. The Hinds’ Feet Members visited again later in the semester to assist the Paint Crew in a project with the graffiti wall behind the Ballfields.
“The Painting Crew actually takes care of different graffiti walls on campus and makes sure there’s space for people to do that kind of art, and then they paint over it when it gets full,” said Mozolic. “There’s a graffiti wall behind EcoDorm that had been painted over and they were wanting new additions, or at least were open to new additions, so the Members and the students went up there and did some really cool graffiti. Spray paint is a great medium for the Members. Some of these folks have motor disability or not that great control over their muscles, so spray paint was a really easy, smooth medium to be using.”
The most recent project with Hinds’ Feet Members, a series of paintings which will decorate the Health Center interior, was completed last week. Mozolic believes these first few steps toward partnership have been great successes.
“The feedback I’ve gotten has been very positive on both ends,” said Mozolic. “I think the students were able – especially in the beginning – to get a real sense of how the brain can be damaged and certain abilities can be changed, but the underlying person still has a lot of similarities to you and I… One of the first things they told us was that ‘We may have difficulty speaking or walking, but we’re not stupid,’ and they’re very open about their differences and their challenges… They really want to educate the community. I think it’s been really positive for them to work with students and share their experiences, and it’s invaluable for students to work with people who have different abilities [and] life experiences, and the experience of having that traumatic event and living with it and using that challenge to grow.”
Barrett also has been receiving positive input about the partnership.
“We measure our success through the ability of Hinds’ Feet Farm Members to achieve their individual goals,” he said. “The measures of our success thus far has been consistent, meaningful, and of significant depth to motivate our Members to express their desire for us to widen our togetherness, thus facilitating more opportunities for work projects with Warren Wilson.”
Mozolic hopes that the partnership will continue to grow as well. In the spring of 2011, she will teach a biopsychology II course and intends to continue inviting Hinds’ Feet Farm Members to visit. Of course, one doesn’t have to be enrolled in a class to volunteer with the program; work crews can e-mail Mozolic (firstname.lastname@example.org) if they have a project and would like help from Hinds’ Feet Members. The Asheville division of Hinds’ Feet is relatively new, so any students who wish to volunteer with the program can either talk to the Service Learning Office about ways to get involved or contact Erica Englesman, a Warren Wilson alumna who is now the day program director of the Asheville Hinds’ Feet division.
“We seek to build a strong foundation rooted in the benefits accessible to both cultures through working in partnership,” Barrett said. “With a strong foundation the possibilities that are ahead, for each organization, are wide-open. We’re open-minded, creative, respectful, and love sitting down with fellow individuals interested in manifesting results that are healthy and feel good-in-the-heart.”