Social work school staff help with Philippine relief mission

May 20, 2014

By Paul R. Pace, News staff

Staff from the University of Southern California School of Social Work performed the first phase of a relief mission in the Philippines to aid the survivors of a devastating typhoon that struck the region in November.

Children in Tacloban City in the Philippines get ready to attend a psycho-social art therapy program, provided by volunteer professors at the University of the Philippines, Diliman. It was part of the many relief efforts in the region following Typhoon Haiyan in November.

Typhoon Haiyan, known as Typhoon Yolanda in the Philippines, caused numerous deaths in portions of Southeast Asia. It is the deadliest Philippine typhoon on record, killing at least 6,200 people in that country alone.

The USC relief group was led in part by Annalisa Enrile, a clinical associate professor at the USC School of Social Work. She leads the school’s Philippines immersion program, which, among its goals, is to help students understand how social work theory is put into practice on a global scale.

Seven faculty members from the School of Social Work performed a two-day assessment of how they could best use their social work skills to aid the storm survivors; they followed that investigation with a two-day training session for key stakeholders in Manila in mid-December.

It was important to the team not to duplicate recovery efforts already taking place by professional emergency responders, Enrile said.

“We wanted to do something more empowering,” she said.

The trainings focused on the best ways to address psychological first aid, first-responder trauma, community development, creating school wellness centers, child protection, and meeting the needs of older persons and the disabled.

Among the participants at the training sessions were representatives from the country’s Department of Education and Department of Social Welfare; elected officials; and officials from grassroots organizations, four universities and the local hospital.

“We did a lot of coalition and rapport building,” Enrile said. “At the end of the day — on issues like this — a lot of it is just being there and be empathetic to what the people experienced.”

In addition, the USC Asian Pacific Islander Social Work Caucus raised donations to send 23 boxes of books on health, mental health and practice as well as relief goods to the storm victims after the typhoon hit.

Faculty members at the School of Social Work continue to share information with the groups they worked with in the Philippines, Enrile said.

“I cannot underscore what a great experience this was to be able to practice our social work skills on the ground,” she said.

From the May 2014 NASW News.