Recently I had the opportunity to go home to Calgary in order to set up a study tour for our social work students. This came about as in May 2016, social work students came from the students came from the University of Calgary to the UK in order to learn more about how social work is practiced here. As a result of the visit we had in the spring, it came about that I would then develop a similar experience for University of Stirling students to go to Calgary. The focus of the study tour is to look at community social work and social work with indigenous populations. These two themes came about as our students get limited opportunities to look at social work from either of these angles and they are an important component to social work practice no matter what country you practice in.
As someone that is from Calgary, I still have many connections in both academia and the field when it comes to social work practice. Through these connections a programme is coming together that I think the students will really enjoy and contains a substantial amount of learning and new skills to take to their social work practice back in Scotland.
To begin with, I met some community social workers that work for the city of Calgary. They are really excited to meet the students and have them participate in community resident groups and neighbourhood events. They also plan on developing a panel discussion with key community organisations and representatives for the students to engage with.
Following this, I met with William Yimbo, the Cultural Diversity Advisor and head of the Cultural Brokerage Program from the Calgary Catholic Immigration Society. Now non-denominational, this non-profit organisation is a key player when it comes to settlement and integration services for immigrants and refugees in Southern Alberta. The Cultural Brokerage Program uses a combination of a systems model and community engagement model to work with families that are not familiar with social work or child protection services. Families are referred to the program by social workers, if there is a recognised need for culturally responsive support after initial involvement with child and family services. It is a great service in order to support both social workers and families in ensuring any intervention being done is culturally appropriate. The programme also develops and facilitates community education workshops for new comers to Calgary about issues concerning family welfare. The students will get a chance to hear from William about some of the key cultural groups in Calgary and meet with the cultural brokers to learn more about their role in child and family social work.
Two other meetings I had were with Casey Eagle Speaker from the Blackfoot nation that works with Hull Family Services and with Les Jerome, a teaching fellow at the University of Calgary of Anishinabe decent in Manitoba. Casey has graciously offered to spend the day with the students discussing some of the key concerns and work being done with indigenous populations and will lead the students through a traditional sweat lodge. Les will also work with the students for a day, focusing on how there are many different strands of indigenous knowledge and historical considerations that social workers need to be aware of in their practice.
There are still elements of the study tour to develop, such as a visit to Head Smashed in Buffalo Jump, and hopefully a trip to Banff. However, so far, the reception to having students from the University of Stirling come to Calgary for this experience has been incredibly positive. The professionals that I have talked to are looking forward to also learning from the students about social work practice in Scotland and developing partnerships and relationships that will impact not only the practitioners, but service users as well.
If you want to find out more about more about this great opportunity on offer to social work students the University of Stirling, get in touch with Sandra.firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr. Sandra Engstrom is a lecturer in Social Work within the Faculty of Social Sciences and member of the Faculty’s Child Wellbeing and Protection research group. Sandra’s research interests centre on how to support social workers as well as a strong interest in international social work and tying in the environment/outdoor education to social work practice and curriculum. Recently Sandra has been looking at the lived experience of child and family social workers, focussing on the emotions of shame and guilt. Read more.