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BLOG: NIASW goes to India and Norway to celebrate World Social Work Day

NIASW celebrated World Social Work Day 2013 at the impressive Titanic Belfast, the world’s largest titanic visitor experience.

Over 60 social workers and social work students gathered together to mark the day, which featured insights from India, Norway, Spain and Slovenia. It was an opportunity for social workers to take a breather from their everyday heavy workloads and see social work from another perspective, and even be reminded of why they joined the profession.

There were three presentations during the morning event. A Queen’s University Belfast School of Social Work staff and student delegation talked about their exchange programme with the Karve Institute, Penai, India. It was good to see the enthusiasm of the social work students and how practitioners felt they could learn from being part of an international profession - despite the many differences between the two countries involved.

Via the exchange programme with Queen’s, Paula McFadden, a NIASW Committee member, was able to attend an International Conference in India as a practitioner representative. NIASW hopes to be involved in the future development of  a student/practitioner exchange programme along with academics and other social work stakeholders.  

Jan Storo, Svein Fuglestad and Elisabeth Gronning from Oslo Akershus, University College of Applied Sciences, offered a fascinating presentation on ‘The Transition from the known to the unknown’. They explored how children’s perceptions and experiences of small and large transitions can be helped by playing with puppets and lullabies. Observers were all engrossed in a puppet work demonstration and soothed by lullabies.

The final event of our World Social Work Day celebration was the Northern Ireland launch of a DVD, ‘International Messages on Service User and Carer Involvement”.   Led by Joe Duffy, Lecturer in Social Work at Queen’s University, Belfast, this proved a very moving and challenging 20 minute film. Social Work Students from Spain, Slovenia and Northern Ireland each asked the same six questions to service users and carers about important aspects of social work knowledge, skills and values.

It was interesting to note that no matter which country they were from, the same messages came across. For example, social workers need to show empathy, respect, be good listeners and understand what is being said and, surprisingly, an expectation that social workers are politically involved, something that NIASW would fully support and promote. The DVD will be available on our website in mid-April after it has been officially launched in all three countries – a must see for both students and practitioners.

When organising an event for social workers it is always good to know that it has been enjoyed and that, hopefully, social workers have either learnt something new or their practice has been challenged. As such it was good to read feedback suggesting both were the case.