Monday, 3 December 2012

Social Work in Uganda

Rachel Yutzy is a Social Work major completing her junior level social work practicum this semester on USP.

Over the last four months, I have been doing my social work practicum at a Compassion International site, Seeta Child Development Center. I can honestly say that my practicum was my favorite part of my experience in Uganda; I learned a lot about social work, Uganda, and myself.

I could have never imagined the learning experience I would gain from doing my internship abroad. Social Work is a very “Western” career. In the States, we have strict protocol as to how to do everything. We have a lot of theory and a lot of ideals. On a clinical level, we are very individualistic. We focus on the client at hand and attempt to know every detail of his or her life. One of the greatest challenges and best experiences was taking my American, higher education, book knowledge and theory, and applying to a situation on the other side of the world. Some things sound great on paper, but do not play out well due to the fact that the theory is tailored to a Western culture.

One prominent aspect of Ugandan culture is community. This aspect is a bit interesting in a social work setting. One of my first “counseling” sessions with a child was with about three extra adults in the room. According to the social workers, this is normal. This is what the community does. Everyone knows everything about everyone else and the value of the advice increases with the number of people reiterating it. From my context, this is not what you do. “Counseling” is done in privacy, or in a group of people struggling with the same thing, not in a community setting. However, as I was immersed in the culture, I began to realize just how much community affected the lives of the children with whom I was working. In a conversation with a co-worker, I learned that a lot of the children are orphaned or abandoned. The extended family or the community will take in the children. It is a community and a familial duty. He was appalled at the idea of a foster care system, where strangers take in children.
It was also interesting to see the similarities. Social work is still social work, no matter where you are on the globe. As my supervisor said, “Social Workers do everything. Everything is in the job description”. That could not have been said better. It seems as though social work agencies are always understaffed and underfunded; yet they still thrive and they still make a difference in their communities. I learned so much about the diversity and the flexibility of social work. I learned how it changes in culture. I learned how it functions on nothing. I saw dedication to hope, faith, and love in ways I have never seen before. I learned how the social work values, service, social justice, dignity and worth of a person, importance of human relationships, integrity, and competence can be universally applied, even when cultural norms are vastly different.

Post by Rachel Yutzy 


  1. That's our girl! Her Daddy and I are so glad that God sent her to our house!