Tuesday, February 3, 2009

BSSW Interns in Moldova

Ever wonder if what you do is accomplishing anything? I've had confirmation these last two days of the value of the social work education we provide students in the BSSW.

Joy, Leah and Megan are graduates of our undergraduate social work program and will graduate with their MSW degrees in May. They chose as their second internship to come to Moldova for an experience in international social work. They are working through the Moldovan office of Children's Emergency Relief International (CERI). This agency mostly works with children in Moldovan orphanages. There is a PhD social worker in this office who provides their supervision.
Just before they arrive changes occurred in the Moldovan government that drastically changed most of what they were to do here. I had concerns before leaving for Moldova that the situation would not provide the kind of professional social work experience needed for a successful field education experience. Well I should have had more faith. When we all got together Sunday night, they each began to tell me about the kind of jobs they had put together for themselves. I was absolutely amazed at their flexiblity, resourcefulness and ability to use social work knowledge and skill.

Leah's job is probably the closest to what was planned. She is working in a program that is designed to assist 16 year olds transition from the orphanages to independent living. It consists of a number of classes and other activities. She is working with Victoria one of our CTE MSW students. Her research project is to evaluate this project. My mouth hung open as I heard her insights into the issues and her plans. She was amazed that Victoria and other CTE staff saw her as an expert.

Megan was supposed to work with the Social Protection Agency on reducing the number of orphanages in Moldova; however, since her supervisor is no longer in this position she had no job. Together they identified a village that wanted to create more community spirit so she is now doing community development (her concentration) in the village. They now have a building that they are renovating and beginning to develop a community center. Jon Singletary, I don't know what you teach in that concentration course but she has some amazing knowledge and skills. She really appreciated how quickly you respond to her request for materials. Her research project is doing secondary data analysis to describe the characteristics of government employed social workers.

Joy has perhaps been the most resourceful. She has researched service to the hearing impaired and identified an NGO that works with these folks. She says that in Moldova these are a highly oppressed and disenfranchised population; so, she is working with a group using her knowledge of sign to empower them using strength prospective and ecological framework. She is using the same data as Megan but focusing on the attitudes of Moldovan social workers towards the handicapped. Wow.

Now I know that these ladies came to us as outstanding young women and would have been flexible and resourceful in anything they chose to do. What is wonderful for any teacher to hear is the credit they give to their faculty for helping them develop the knowledge and skills they are practicing.

Today they joined our CTE class and presented their research projects to the class. What a great job they did. It work out wonderfully for teaching. As they presented I was able to connect the research principles and terminology I taught to their examples. It was almost as though we had planned it that way.

A real bonus to this trip is enjoying time with them.

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