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March 10, 2005
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Innovative placements for social work interns
Community capacity building


At the Chalker Place Community Centre, community leaders like Nancy Thivierge (L) are working on a community capacity building project on the health and well-being of children in co-operation with community facilitator Karen Gray (R) and social work intern Jennifer Lundrigan.

Two fifth-year social work interns are enjoying unique field placements in community capacity building this semester. Jennifer Lundrigan is working in St. John’s on the health and well-being of children and Rosemary Whalen is working in the Dunville area on a project to bring seniors out of isolation.

“Both of these placements represent a unique, innovative approach to social work where the interns are being exposed to many facets of community development work,” said Sue Murray, field coordinator for the School of Social Work.

Ms. Lundrigan is working with social worker Karen Gray to improve services for children and teens living in the Chalker Place community. The Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Association donated a house for a community centre, and it now serves as an activity centre offering everything from teen nights and art classes to play programs for younger children.

The project is part of a pioneering outreach program to families and children at risk, led by Dr. Ken Barter, Social Work, in co-operation with five community agencies and funded by the National Crime Prevention Centre.

Ms. Gray was hired as the community facilitator for this project to work with families and link them to available resources.

“Chalker Place is a community with many new Canadian families and we are working to integrate these families through the community centre and activities for the children. Any action must be appropriate and directed by the community. We know in capacity building that it’s the community involvement that is critical – they must own the solution.”

As a social work intern, this field placement has given Ms. Lundrigan the opportunity to interact with people in the community and become involved in contacting outside agencies to introduce them to community leaders. For example, she is working to see if arrangements can be made with students from the College of the North Atlantic to assist residents of Chalker Place with their income tax.

Ms. Gray noted that many of the new Canadians living in Chalker Place come from countries where community is very important. “We want to give them a sense that the community here is supporting them and sharing with them.”

In Dunville, Rosemary Whalen is also working on a community capacity building project, but her focus is seniors. Living in Branch, she knows just how difficult it can be for a senior to access a service an hour away in Placentia.

“I set out to identify all the different organizations in the area and connect isolated seniors with relevant organizations” she said. “I started by talking to the RCMP, community health nursing and mental health counselling and asked them to include some questions in their assessments to identify organizations and key players who could be involved in providing services to seniors.”

A useful service could be as simple as a weekly visit to a lonely senior. Another area Ms. Whalen is researching is the funding opportunities available to seniors and how they could be assisted in making applications for available funding.

The end result of Ms. Whalen’s work will be a proposal to the Avalon Gateway Regional Economic Development Board for a one-day Seniors Resource Conference to bring together all the key players and fundraising organizations.

Ms. Whalen’s supervisor is social worker Priscilla Corcoran Mooney, the community mobilization leader for the Rural Secretariat-Avalon Region. “Social development needs to focus more on older adults and Rosemary’s project will do this by finding ways to bring seniors out of isolation.”

From Ms. Whalen’s point of view the field placement has been a resounding success. “It’s included community capacity building and put me in touch with the person and the environment. I really loved it.”

Back at the School of Social Work, Sue Murray is delighted that these non-traditional social work placements have been successful. “They demonstrate the diversity of social work.”