NASW Hosts Social Work Exchange Professional from Korea

Introduction

NASW (National Association of Social Workers) hosts professional social workers from foreign countries for time limited exchanges. The purpose of such exchanges is to provide the exchange professionals with a close up view of the various mechanisms involved in supporting and sustaining a professional social work workforce in the U.S.

Starting April 2010, NASW has hosted a social work exchange professional from KASW (Korea Association of Social Workers). Soojung Kim, manager of International Relations Department at KASW and current exchange professional at NASW, will share her social work exchange experiences periodically through the NASW blog.

April 16, 2010

Saying the final good-bye to two of KASW colleagues at the Incheon Airport in Korea, I got on an airplane to Washington, DC. It was one of the longest journeys ever in my life. I kept thinking about a road ahead including new environment and new people. After the 13 hours’ long flight, I arrived in the Dulles Airport, Washington, DC where the NASW national office is located. It was April 12 and the start of my stay in Washington, DC.

I started to work as an exchange staff from KASW at NASW on April 14. The NASW national office is located near the Union Station so was easy to find and convenient to commute as well. At the first visit to NASW, I discovered a welcome message for me at the reception desk, which made me very comfortable at this new place. Then, I met with the staff of Human Rights & International Affairs Division which I was to work with. That first week, Luisa Lopez, director of the division, and Amy Bess, senior associate, gave me a brief introduction of NASW and Janice Harrison, administrator of the division helped me with needed work space and orientation materials.

NASW is much bigger than I expected. The office is more spacious and the staff is much larger in number. The office atmosphere is quite different in that it is much quieter than KASW and nobody seems to make a noise or even to talk to each other much. I will need some time to adapt myself to the new and different environment, and expect this will be a great experience for me and KASW which I continue to work for. I thank all of the related people of NASW and KASW who made this opportunity possible, especially Mr. Sungchul Cho, KASW President, Dr. Soungyee Kim, KASW former President and Dr. James Kelly, NASW President.

April 23, 2010

This week, I was given a tour of NASW with the assistance of Janice and was introduced to many of NASW staff. I realized I wasn’t good at remembering English names and it made me a bit embarrassed when I had encounters with someone who I exchanged names with and couldn’t remember the name.

On April 19, I attended the Human Rights & International Affairs (HR & IA) division meeting at which the division staff discussed the plan and program of the international conference in South Africa that NASW is cosponsoring with US Agency on International Development (USAID) in the coming November. Conference content and budget were mainly discussed at this meeting. It was interesting to see NASW organizes an international conference outside the US and its purpose is to review and promote the child and family policy in the African countries through strengthening social work professionals in those countries. I felt NASW and many other international development organizations in the US were more interested in Africa than Asia and I wondered why. As my times in the US go by, I might understand the reasons.

I had an opportunity to observe NASW’s 2010 Social Work Congress held April 22-23. I was impressed by the conference format and that social work leaders all over the country gather every 5 years to review current social work challenges and discuss new imperatives to solve those challenges and pave the way for upcoming young social workers.

From the Congress theme ‘Reaffirm, Revisit and Reimagine the Profession’ and the rationale for it, I understood that the US and Korea have encountered similar professional challenges and I guess Korean social workers might find some solutions to our own challenges if we apply some of these notions in a way feasible for Korea. The web-based Student Congress parallel to the Social Work Congress was also interesting. I introduced this Congress to KASW and Korean social workers, expecting we in Korea might organize this format of congress in near future.

This time I was pleased to meet again with Dr. James Kelly, NASW President. I met with him at first in Korea where he attended the international social work conference organized by KASW in 2009 and he invited me to experience work at NASW through the exchange program between NASW and KASW. I expect this exchange program will further develop and benefit many social workers in both countries.

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