The Palestine-UK Social Work Network held a hugely over-subscribed event late last year, an initiative aimed at linking up British and Palestinian social workers.
Jointly sponsored by BASW and the University of Durham, the event followed a trip to Palestine undertaken by UK social workers in 2011, in which the challenges facing social work professionals in Jerusalem and the West Bank were all too clear [see PSW article on this visit
The Durham conference, chaired by the university’s Professor Lena Dominelli, offered those social workers who took part in the trip to share details of their experience and for delegates to hear firs hand from Palestinian practitioners about the work they do.
Members of the Palestinian Association of Social Workers and Psychologists (PUSWP) welcomed delegates via a video link, through which they expressed their enthusiasm about this opportunity to share ideas and experiences of social work between the two countries.
Separately, the packed event heard eloquent and powerful presentations from two Palestinian Masters students who are currently studying at Durham University – financially assisted by support from the Durham Palestine Educational Trust. They discussed issues including the power of social media in campaigning work and the importance of raising awareness of the day-to-day reality of life living and working in what the United Nations, European Union and International Court of Justice term the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
Despite the many widely reported challenges of life living and working in Palestine, Professor Michael Lavalette of Liverpool Hope University used the event to suggest that Palestinian social work practitioners can be less hampered by professional silos than their counterparts in the UK. He introduced the concept of ‘popular social work’, which is undertaken outside of official structures, and argued that this characterises significant amounts of practice in Palestine. Remaining mindful of this will be important in seeking to develop the network.
A group of Liverpool Hope social work students followed Professor Lavalette’s address by sharing the experiences gained from a field trip to the West Bank. The detailed insight into the issues people grapple with each day in Palestine was inspiring to hear, especially for the other student social workers in the room.
Two further presentations at the 2 November event shared a focus on therapeutic and community responses to trauma. David Harrold of the Palestine Trauma Centre UK, which supports the work of mental health and community workers in Gaza (visit www.ptcuk.org
for more) spoke movingly about work being undertaken with families who are seeking to recover from trauma induced, in particular, by the military operations in Gaza, undertaken by Israeli security forces.
Guy Shennan, one of the initiators of the network, reported back from a conference he had recently attended at the Treatment and Rehabilitation Centre in Ramallah, which presented the growing use there of narrative therapy, specifically as a response to trauma.
This launch event provided an ideal opportunity to open up discussion and seek ideas about how the Network could be further developed. It was recognised that there was a huge amount of mutual learning to be achieved through linking with our Palestinian social work colleagues in a variety of useful ways.
As its initiators, we believe that the event has given us the impetus to continue to develop the Network. Just as the PSW article stimulated interest in the process of forging links with Palestinian practitioners, so too the conference stirred a number of people to express an interest in becoming involved with BASW’s Palestine-UK Social Work Network, and we very much welcome others joining us in organising activities.
To assist with this, we will continue to post information on our BASW webpage
, and will soon have a Facebook page to facilitate further involvement and discussion.
We are already planning our next event, a major conference to take place in London in 2013, where we will be delighted to welcome Palestinian social workers as keynote speakers.
Sarah Sturge, Dave Harrop, Rupert Franklin, Guy Shennan