In 1976 a Trinidadian in the USA, with an eye on returning home and working for the government, decided to apply to do a Masters in Public Health at Johns Hopkins University (JHU).
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T&T marks Social Work Day tomorrow
March 20 was World Social Work day. Tomorrow, March 26, is the United Nations’ Social Work Day. The International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW) has declared it a week of action. Here in T&T, as the T&T Association of Social Workers (TTASW) marks the occasion, the social problems facing T&T are placing their work right at the forefront of making necessary social transformation.
The association, whose motto is: “Empower social workers to make a difference,” is focused on helping social workers to facilitate client functioning and create social change. Over the three decades of its existence, the organisation has brought members together to discuss critical issues facing people working in their field and the country at large, through conferences, exchange forums, social events and training sessions.
TTASW vice-president Akilah Riley says, “At present, we are focused on exposure and education,” as well as fostering “a closely-knit network of social workers”. “We have conducted panel discussions and forums on critical social work issues—including the vision for social work—at the tertiary institutions. We see this as important so that budding social workers will understand the profession and the tasks ahead.
“We have also held discussions and presentations on other important issues such as child protection, human trafficking, and intimate partner violence. Our training chairperson is also in the process of finding new training opportunities for our members so that members can improve their practice.” Riley is optimistic about the future or the association but sees many challenges in their day-to-day work.
“The association needs to become more vibrant and more vocal on public issues. At present, the hands are few and the tasks are many.” In addition, the association needs a home, an office out of which to operate. “This association is an NGO,” she says, “so there are many financial challenges facing it. But if we had an office space, we would be able to do much more work. Social workers have their individual offices, she notes, “but this umbrella body needs one as well”.
Some challenges are more universal: “I would say that the association also struggles with the problems that all social workers struggle with, like burnout and frustration with the system. “Children’s issues are a primary concern for us. There is need for proper legislation to protect children. There are too many gaps in the current laws, too many inconsistencies surrounding age limits, too many unclear, inadequate definitions of abuse.
“The social worker also needs more power through the legislation to conduct effective practice. Luckily, the legislation is on the front-burner again, so we will see—we are keeping our fingers crossed. The group is also working on becoming a regulatory body, so that all social workers will have to be registered and licenced with the association in order to practise.
For more information on the Trinidad and Tobago Association of Social Workers, visit their Web site at ttasw.org
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