Social Work in Action (October 2013)

The Rural Social Work Caucus quilt The Rural Social Work Caucus quilt (photo right) displays the many themes used throughout the years for the annual conference of the National Institute for Social Work and Human Services in Rural Areas.

The NASW Pennsylvania Chapter attended the 38th Annual Conference for the National Institute for Social Work and Human Services in Rural Areas in July at Millersville University of Pennsylvania.

Abigail Hurst, director of policy and communication at the chapter, said about 150 people traveled from across the country to the event, where the theme was “Community, Commitment and Tradition.” Members of the Rural Caucus shared stories, successes and practices of social work in rural communities across Pennsylvania and the nation, Hurst said.

NASW West Virginia Chapter Executive Director Sam Hickman led the opening ceremony in a song praising how “The [Rural Caucus] don’t have much structure, but it doesn’t fade away,” Hurst said. Hickman serves as secretary of the National Rural Social Work Caucus.

Over the three-day event, social workers attended various sessions that showcased what their colleagues have been able to accomplish in rural areas, and they connected with one another, Hurst said.

Ron Simon, NASW-Pennsylvania’s executive director, said, “The problems rural social workers often face are unique and diverse, and require creative thinking. Conferences like this one are invaluable to those often working independently to collaborate, network and discuss best practices.”

Elizabeth J. ClarkFormer NASW Executive Director Elizabeth J. Clark led a People to People delegation trip to Costa Rica in August. Eleven delegation members joined Clark in visiting the La Carpio region of Costa Rica, a refugee settlement of 40,000 to 45,000 immigrants.

Gail Nystrom, the founder and CEO of the Humanitarian Foundation, gave the group a tour of La Carpio, and members visited orphanages, schools and day care centers within the vicinity.

“Some of the living conditions were extremely poor and inadequate, but in other places the residents had built storefronts on the street level and were working hard to establish businesses,” Clark said.

She said a major highlight of the trip was establishing a library within Guarderia de Piedades, a semi-privately funded day care and infant stimulation center for 50 children. The delegation donated books they brought with them, and spent time reading to the children and creating posters to encourage reading.

Despite the poverty witnessed, Clark said, they still saw a strong sense of community.

“The residents (in La Carpio) did not appear powerless or hopeless,” Clark said. “Building was taking place and there was a sense of industriousness in the settlement.”

A social work delegation hosted by the Columbus International Program visited NASW’s national office in Washington, D.C., in August. CIP is a nonprofit that has provided international training programs for individuals from around the world for the past 40 years.

The participants represented Jamaica, Japan and the Cayman Islands. As part of their three-week training program, they visited NASW to learn more about the overall structure of social work services in the U.S. and the different fields of social work practice. They also wanted more information about ethics and standards of practice.

Staff from the NASW Foundation, Professional Development, Ethics and Professional Review, and the Social Work Policy Institute participated in the exchange.

Registration has begun for the Hospice Foundation of America fall program, which is presented in cooperation with NASW.

“Supporting Individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities through Serious Illness, Grief and Loss” will be a live webcast on Oct. 24 and available in an archived format for up to a year thereafter. The program is worth 2 CE credits.

Registration is open to both individuals and organizations. Organizational registration for HFA’s spring 2013 program, “Improving Care for Veterans Facing Illness and Death,” remains open until April 17.

Visit Hospice Foundation of America for more information and to register for either program.