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Nunatsiavut bachelor of social work program receives national recognition

Nunatsiavut bachelor of social work students.


By Laura Woodford

Out of 266 entries, the Nunatsiavut Government and Memorial University's bachelor of social work program has been honoured with a national award.
The Changemakers Initiative: Inspiring Approaches to First Nations, Métis and Inuit Learning was awarded to the program, the only award for Newfoundland and Labrador.

The program was one of 30 winning ideas and projects from across the country selected by sponsors Ashoka Canada and The Counselling Foundation of Canada. Other partners for the initiative include The J.W. McConnell Family Foundation and the Martin Aboriginal Education Initiative, along with partners The Ashoka Changemakers, Chagnon Foundation, The Circle on Philanthropy and Aboriginal Peoples in Canada, Donner Canadian Foundation, First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada, The First Nations Education Council, The Girls Action Foundation, Lawson Foundation, Mamow Sha-way-gi-kay-win: North South Partnership for Children, Margaret and Wallace McCain Family Foundation, Ontario Trillium Foundation, RBC Foundation, Regroupement des centres d'amitié autochtones du Québec, Small Change Fund and Vancouver Foundation.

In 2010, the Nunatsiavut Government engaged Memorial University's School of Social Work and other Memorial departments, as well as community stakeholders, to offer a bachelor of social work program that is offered solely to Inuit beneficiaries in Labrador. Students enrolled in the Nunatsiavut Government-sponsored four-year program receive instruction in the accredited, standardized social work program of study. As well, traditional Inuit knowledge and cultural norms are interwoven into each course.

"Through the perseverance and determination of our 19 wonderful social work students and partners: Memorial University, the Labrador Institute and the College of the North Atlantic, our program is setting the standard for future collaborations in Inuit education and training for years to come," said Lucy Brennan, program director, Nunatsiavut Government. "We are deeply honoured for the recognition bestowed on all of us by Ashoka Canada."

Entries to the competition were assessed based on the strength of their innovation, social impact and sustainability.

"I spent a day with the students last fall and was so impressed with their commitment and knowledge," said Maura Hanrahan, Memorial's special adviser to the president on Aboriginal affairs, and adjunct professor, Division of Community Health and Humanities, Faculty of Medicine. "They well and truly deserve the national recognition they are getting. Kudos to everyone involved in this model program."

Winning entries ranged from a program that helps First Nations girls in foster care reconnect with their culture and heritage to integrating Aboriginal stories and storytelling techniques into video-game design.

"The Changemakers initiative on First Nations, Métis and Inuit learning demonstrates how much can be achieved when organizations work together with the national Aboriginal leadership," said Paul Martin of the Martin Aboriginal Education Initiative and former prime minister of Canada. "I am very pleased to see the range of submissions. The projects and ideas demonstrate that creativity and partnership can combine to create innovative solutions."

Selected as one of the top entries pertaining to career education and workplace learning in Canada, the Nunatsiavut bachelor of social work program was awarded $1,000.

Award winners were honoured at a summit in Gatineau, Que., from April 16-18.