SWAN activities include Australia, Ukraine, Armenia

Mar 25, 2013

By Rena Malai, News staff

NASW and the NASW Foundation formed the Social Workers Across Nations (SWAN) initiative to provide a mechanism for social workers to offer their expertise and skills to serve humanitarian needs within the international community on a voluntary basis and to develop collaborative links with other countries around the world. Following is a roundup of recent SWAN activities:


Marie-Claire Cheron-Sauer, who is past vice president and a member of the Australian Association of Social Workers, visited the NASW National office in Washington, D.C., in late 2012. She met with staff in the executive office, the Social Work Policy Institute, the Center for Workforce Studies and the communications department to gain an understanding of the social work profession in the U.S.

Cheron-Sauer received a 2012 Churchill Fellowship in support of her international review of social work education, accreditation and workforce planning systems for the profession and the wider social care sector in the United Kingdom, Europe, the United States and Canada.

As a part of her fellowship activities, Cheron-Sauer is looking for ways to strengthen the social work profession by internationally examining how practice, education, research and policy fit together to support social work.

Ukraine (Chernobyl)

In 1986, an explosion occurred at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in northern Ukraine, releasing large, toxic quantities of radioactive debris into the atmosphere. Residents in the area were exposed to high amounts of cancer-causing radiation, which continues to have an effect more than 25 years later.

The Chernobyl region has documented increases in leukemia, thyroid cancer, and non-thyroid solid cancer among children and adults living in the area.

The Friends of Chernobyl Centers (FOCCUS), based in Wisconsin, has partnered with NASW to send informational resources to social workers in the Ukraine on cancer and palliative care.

The resources will help educate social workers in Chernobyl on the best practices for working with disaster situations and cancer patients.

In addition, through SWAN the NASW Foundation recently provided FOCCUS with a $5,000 grant to specifically assist in training a selected social worker from Chernobyl in pediatric oncology social work.

The Friends of Chernobyl Centers, U.S. Inc., was the 2003 recipient of the NASW Foundation International Rhoda G. Sarnat Award.


Retired NASW-Vermont Executive Director Rilla Murray connected with the Armenian Association of Social Workers during her work experience in Armenia.

Murray presented a proclamation and memorandum of understanding to the Armenian Association of Social Workers during the association’s annual meeting in November.

The documents recognize the contributions AASW has made to the social work profession in Armenia and formally establishes a congenial alliance with NASW in the U.S. Murray said she consulted with Dr. Mira Antonyan, president of AASW, about designing a national social work conference, adopting a code of ethics and ways to achieve balance in relationships with both academia and government.

“Social workers are like a tribe,” Murray said. “We share values despite very different cultural histories, which means we can communicate almost immediately and solve problems together. We literally see each other like members of a dispersed tribe finding one another.”

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