Internships help local groups while promoting social work
On the job
By Jeff Green
Top row, from left: Jennifer Gover, Allan Horwood, Doug Butt and Cathy Hanlon.
Front row, from left: Samantha Bursey and Leslie Brown. (Photo by Jeff Green)
Several community organizations throughout the Avalon Peninsula have been left with a blueprint on how to improve their services for young people thanks to six graduating students from Memorial University’s School of Social Work.
The fifth-year students spent 13 weeks this semester doing outreach work as part of their field internship, a requirement for graduation.
The students spent time with a variety of groups who primarily work with young children and teens. They said their placements were not only a chance to offer suggestions on how the groups can expand their services, but were also an opportunity to promote the School of Social Work and the type of work a social worker does.
“We believe that our project clarified that social workers don’t just work in the area of child protection but that they also become involved on a community level,” said Doug Butt. He and his partner, Allan Horwood, conducted a series of youth focus groups while working with Eastern Health’s Child, Youth and Family Services division on Bell Island. “We believed that it was important for the youth to know that they have a voice and could express their concerns freely within this rural community,” Mr. Butt said. “Social work is committed to promoting social change, problem solving in the relationships and helping people overcome troubles in their lives that interfere with their well being and finding their strengths.”
Mr. Butt said he and his partner have since written a letter to the local town council and MP Norm Doyle advocating for more recreational facilities such as a skateboard park and swimming pool along with the names of the youth who took part in their program.
Setting the foundation for change and facilitating discussion was also the end result of a unique program piloted at a school in the Conception Bay North region.
Girl Power was launched this past winter at Coley’s Point Primary School and focused on boosting grade four girl’s self-esteem, self-confidence and to encourage empowerment.
“The rationale for the Girl Power group is to help the girls develop a healthy inner self by being involved in positive social interactions with their peers, while having fun in a learning environment,” said co-ordinator Samantha Bursey. Her partner Jennifer Gover did her placement at Eastern Health’s offices in Bay Roberts.
Ms. Bursey said young girls are facing a variety of peer pressure issues at an early age which need to be addressed. She said the media’s focus on the female body image spurred the need to instill more positive thinking in the girls at an early age.
“The girls had fun and learned skills that they will be able to use in their lives in the future,” said Ms. Bursey. “I believe this project … may have facilitated discussion … the foundation is in place.”
Getting that kind of hands-on experience helped bring a new dimension to their internships, said Leslie Brown, who, along with her partner Cathy Hanlon, completed a placement with the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary in St. John’s. The couple worked primarily with the RNC’s Child Abuse Sexual Assault Unit (CASA) conducting participatory research. Ms. Brown said they were primarily interested in learning more about the challenges and benefits of police and social work collaboration.
“An exciting part of our work involved job shadowing and participating in direct observation of RNC members as they conducted investigations,” she said. She and Ms. Hanlon then wrote a report which outlined suggestions for areas of improvement.
“This allowed us, as students, an opportunity to understand the challenges and limitations of both professions and the impact these challenges have on the daily work of police officers and social workers.”
The students hope their projects will help generate discussion on how the organizations they spent time with can further develop their unique services.