Notes of a Korean Exchange Professional at NASW (Part 2)

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 is hosting 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 through the NASW blog.  Click here to read Part 1.

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April 30, 2010

I assume one of NASW’s leading successful projects is the HIV/AIDS Spectrum Project. On April 26, I had a chance to learn more about the Project from Evelyn Tomaszewski, senior associate of HR & IA division and director of the project. A questions and answers session with Evelyn deepened my understanding of the Project. It was great to know how it was planned and implemented and developed. I thought some of the Project’s formats such as training for trainers and specific detailed manuals for trainers could be applicable to education and training projects which KASW has been currently implementing with funding of the Community Chest of Korea and/or corporations with situational adaptations. Actually, HIV/AIDS related issues are not familiar to me as problems caused by HIV/AIDS are not as serious in Korea compared to in the US. I have become more aware of the HIV/AIDS situations and social work endeavors to address these issues in the US.

Earlier I wondered why NASW seems to be more interested in working with African countries than Asian countries. Since learning that some of NASW’s projects under way in collaboration with African countries have been funded by the US Government, I now understand that it is more a matter of funding and possible opportunities rather than lack of interest or concern about other geographical areas. Anyway, it is always a pleasure to see that social workers in a country, whether this would be Korea or the United States or any other country, collaborate with their colleagues in other parts of the world beyond their own country boundaries. I believe that international exchanges and collaboration among social workers will enhance mutual understanding and promote social work cooperation to make a world a better place we want to live in.

On April 27, I attended a conference organized by InterAction, an NGO whose purpose is focusing on research and consulting for effective international development and assistance. NASW is a member of InterAction and makes efforts to involve social workers in the international arena. The recent inter-connectedness at a global level, caused by freer migration, developed communication and transportation, is giving more opportunities for social workers to actively participate in international social work. I think we, social workers, need to be equipped with better knowledge and skills to work with other professionals in international and/or social development and NASW’s effort would be a good model to social workers’ associations in other countries.

There was an NASW staff meeting on April 28 and I attended it. One of announcements was on a membership decrease due to retirement of baby-boomer social workers and the US economic downturn. The continued economic recession in the US seems to deeply affect social work and the whole society. It is likely that social work and/or social welfare is the most vulnerable sector influenced by the economy, nationally and globally.

May 7, 2010

I attended a lunchtime student forum organized by NASW HR & IA Division on May 3. The division has been holding a series of forums to promote women’s rights sponsored by the UN Foundation. This time the forum was held in the University of Maryland, School of Social Work with the theme of ‘Promoting Human Rights of Women and Girls Globally: The Intersection of Social Work and Family Planning Service’. This well prepared lunchtime forum was successful with about 20 participants and their active engagement. Short video clips regarding women’s rights, Prof. Jodie Olsen’s briefing on her experience as a field agent in Tunisia and discussions led by Amy Bess and Melissa Sellevaag inspired participants to think through the women’s issues and seemed to achieve the forum’s aim – promoting women’s rights. It was great to see NASW is actively involved in advocacy even at a global level.

On May 4, Kim Blessing started to work as an intern at NASW HR & IA division. I was glad to meet with and talk with her about social work and social welfare in Korea such as licensure and continuing education, education and employment. I became more aware of the US social work education from her explanation and experience at the school of social work in Michigan. The US social work education seems to emphasize and focus on MSW rather than BSW compared to the social work education in Korea, which is quite different in this regard. It would be very interesting to compare similarities and differences in social work education between Korea and the US and its influences on work scope and employment of social workers.

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