Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Social Work Reflections from Katie Green

Life is unpredictable. Do you want to know why? Its takes you places you would never expect to be. It brings people in your life that you never thought you would meet. It brings the sweetest surprises and lessons that are only possible with unpredictability. It’s amazing!

Right now, I am sitting in the USP office at Uganda Christian University. I am back in a community that I said goodbye to just about a year and a half ago and now I am here, working as a Program Assistant.
Katie Green
I was a senior social work student here at USP in the Spring of 2013. I did my social work internship at St. Peters Child Development Center in Lugazi. St. Peters is a branch of Compassion International and I worked specifically with the Child Survival Program (CSP). CSP reaches out to pregnant women, young vulnerable children and their primary caregivers through home-based and group activities. We did a lot of home visits, health and wellness/life skill education and general community care.

The St. Peter's Staff at the USP Farewell Party
I spent 400+ hours at St. Peters over the four months I was here in Uganda, so the place became like a second home to me. The staff members became great friends of mine and the mothers quickly became people that I would learn a lot from.

I remember so many days of sitting on plastic chairs at our site, babies in my lap and just being with the moms. Working on reports, charts and power points, taking tea with my co-workers, talking about life, (America, skyscrapers, relationships, cars, how weird it is that we let our dogs in the house.) Learning about the struggles and hardships of Ugandan mothers and witnessing the joy that not even poverty can steal.

My practicum partner Benita and I at a birthday
party for the Mothers we worked with.
All of those little moments became a big adventure, a journey that I carry with me wherever I go.

After my semester with USP, I flew home, graduated college and moved to Chicago with my best friend to start out life in the real world. Exciting right? I worked the most random jobs as I figured out my next step. I worked on the Navy Pier for a boat company, at a busy Chicago restaurant and as a dog walker. None of which were my major but with all of my random ‘post-college figure out my life’ jobs- there were people. So there was social work.

I have learned that social work is not just a major, profession or title. It is a lens through which we can see people and life. It is looking at people, seeing them for who they are and accepting wherever they are at in life. It is looking for the strengths in the people around you and empowering them, believing that they are good enough to succeed. It is being there with people in their hurt, and not being afraid to sit with them. It’s looking for what you have in common with people, what differences you have with people and embracing both. This, my friends, can be done anywhere and everywhere, Africa or America, working at a restaurant in Chicago or in the little town of Lugazi in Uganda.

Just a couple of weeks ago, I found myself back in Lugazi at St. Peters, sitting on the same chairs, holding babies, singing, reuniting with the mothers I had no idea that I would ever see again. It was truly the sweetest thing.

Making Playdough for the clients with 
Benita at St. Peters!
It was a privilege to see some of the same mothers I had worked with. They were thrilled to see me and welcomed me with open arms, praising God that I had come back! One of the mothers who I had become close with during my time, is now the chair person of the group. I am so proud of her! The cook was still there, the school teacher, a lot of my old co-workers. It felt like home again.

In coming back and working with USP I get to witness our students going through their practicums, having the same kind of experiences I had and I am thrilled! I joke with my USP co-workers that I could talk about practicums forever, and it’s because I had such an amazing experience. The USP social work program gave me such a valuable view on what social work can look like, anywhere in the world.

I never expected that I would be back here but somehow I am lucky enough to live life with these amazing people in the community I learned to love during my semester.  I have learned that you can’t always see the value of a journey until you are looking back and that is a beautiful thing. I have looked back, and continue to look forward. I wish you all the same.

Cheers to our adventurous, wonderful, unpredictable life!

If you want more information about the social work program and my time at St. Peters, check out our website and video here:

Do you want to make friends with Ugandans, have a unique experience and learn about what social work looks like across the world?  Then start your application today and apply here:

My supervisor, Moreen, Benita and I at St. Peters 
on one of our last days.

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