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Occupational therapist addresses global issues

Posted on 11.20.2013

Frank Kronenberg delivered a lecture entitled  “Intercultural Practices: A Matter of Social and Occupational Justice” as a part of the University of Indianapolis Social Responsibility Series at 7 p.m. on Nov. 13 in the Ruth Lilly Performance Hall in Christel DeHaan Fine Arts Center.


Frank Kronenberg, an occupational therapist who works in South Africa, speaks to students about the importance of global assistance on Nov. 14 in Ruth Lilly Performance Hall in the Christel DeHaan Fine Arts Center.

Kronenberg is an international guest lecturer and consultant in occupational therapy originally from the Netherlands, but currently residing in Cape Town, South Africa. He is the co-founder and director of “Shades of Black,” a Cape Town-based nonprofit organization with a social mission that represents Ubuntourism. He also is a co-author of three international publications: “Occupational Therapy Without Borders: Learning from the Spirit of Survivors,” “A Political Practice of Occupational Therapy” and “Occupational Therapies Without Borders: Towards an Ecology of Occupation-Based Practices.”

Kronenberg opened his presentation by giving a brief background of himself and letting the audience know why he chose to go into the health field. He then challenged everyone in the room to be bold in their lives, always thinking about ways to spark change.

“What I share isn’t just about life. It’s about life experiences,” he said. “… There are few people in this world that still have the courage to stand up for what is right, even if they have to stand alone.”

Kronenberg then discussed how people must evaluate their situations before acting and make sure that their actions are appropriate for the places they visit.

Using an example from his life, Kronenberg talked about how people must “instruct to destruct,” saying that it is impossible to make changes in the world effectively if people are not learning how to move outside of their confinements to learn the greater things of this world.

“We cannot go into places we haven’t been before and expect to be successful,” Kronenberg said.

Throughout the lecture, Kronenberg used his own life experiences to provide an in-depth exploration of who the audience believed they were and what they stood for as students, professors and activists. Kronenberg talked about why occupational therapists need to work with disciplines beyond the constant use of medicine, saying that much is needed in the process of healing, such as being able to build relationships with those who are facing the same situations.

“We humans are all different, and all equal,” Kronenberg said. “There is something that makes us recognize each other as human beings.”

Kronenberg brought up two themes that he noticed after conducting an analysis of more than 10,000 comments under the YouTube video “War/No More Trouble.” He said that the first theme he noticed was this: “It seems to be that we people in the world are hungry and thirsty for ever more in opportunities that allow us to experience a deeper sense of belonging.” He said that the second theme was this: “It seems to be that people out in the world, including ourselves, are hungry and thirsty for opportunities that allow us to meaningfully contribute to the well-being of others.”

Freshman education major Chelsea Yeadon said that the lecture was eye-opening.

“This lecture really caused me to think,” Yeadon said. “I have always been an advocate for change and helping others, and now I have a better understanding of the different things I can do.”

Kronenberg used video clips throughout his presentation to show that real organizations in the world are fighting to help those in need.

He showed a video about the children in Tibet who are discriminated against because they are blind. Using this video, he discussed how his sister-in-law who is blind went into Tibet and started the first school for the blind, showing that people have the right to be blind without being discriminated against.

Kronenberg then showed a video clip about an organization in Cape Town, South Africa, called Grandmothers Against Poverty and Aids. He said that GAPA was an organization that provided hope for grandmothers who were caring for their deceased children’s children.

He said that more than 700 grandmothers in the organization were never supposed to welcome self-pity and depression, so if ever they felt one of those things, they would chase it away with song and dance.

Kronenberg concluded the lecture by saying things that are said to be impossible really are possible; they just have not been done yet. He left the audience with a final question.

“What really makes us human? I cannot think of a harder question we need to ask ourselves,” Kronenberg said. “It is a tough question, but we have a lot to gain if we go there.”


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