With the support of a professional social worker Ms. Karen Vinacour, a retired social worker from New York, USA who has been in Laos for almost three months. She has had a lot of experiences working with children and adolescents in hospitals, clinics, and schools in the USA and Australia. She is volunteering at the National Children hospital and the Lao Disabled Women Development Center (LDWDC).
Besides these two main places she visited other sites of interests. She has enjoyed mentoring and supervising three social work interns and final year students at the National University of Laos (NUOL) who are doing field work at the National Children Hospital where Dr. Phonedavanh is the Deputy Director. Karen volunteers in the hospital 2 to 3 times per week. In addition to work with students, she is informing the doctors and nurses about social work practice in the hospital, collaborating and sharing information, and teaching conversation English at lunch time.
After a few weeks, Karen talked to me about her concern for the children who were accidentally burned at home or injured in some other ways. These accidents could have been avoided if parents were more aware of safety precautions. The students with Karen’s help and input from one of the head nurses and the doctor in charge of the inpatient unit prepared a talk with pictures. On March 16, 2014, she gave a presentation to mothers, fathers, and caregivers of sick children on the topic of “Safety at Home for Children.”
The talk was well received by 12 adult caregivers, 9 doctors, and nurse interns Karen and Xuyen. After 30 minutes with pictures as visual aids about the hazards in the house that could be prevented if prepared. The Social work students talked with caregivers individually.
It was amazing to see how eager the parents were to share their experiences as safety in their own homes and villages, including fathers, mothers, uncles, aunts, etc. They told stories most of which were related to water, cooking, and falling down stairs, and off of chairs.
This is the first time that social work students in Laos got to work with doctors and nurses to help the caregivers of sick young children in the hospital. The talk was productive. They did another session in the outpatients department on March 19. On Friday, March 21, the gave another presentation to pregnant and young mothers of the department of Mother and Child at the Friendship General Hospital next door to the National Children Hospital, NCH, and plan for another one on March 24 in large clinic at NCH.
We hope this will be the precedent for more talks on health related topics which can be done by social workers and their students in many more hospitals and child centers.
At the debriefing meeting afterward Karen talked about how social workers can also provide community development in the village by getting people involved, identifying problems, discussing it, and find ways to solve it by advocacy and/or locating resources to address the issues. I think the students learned so much and benefited from the experience of a professional social work supervisor.
Karen hopes to come back next year. She would like to work with social work interns and volunteers. She hopes the National University will continue to send social work student volunteers and students for field work in hospitals.
Thank you, Karen, for your volunteer work, your expertise, and your professional supervision to social work student interns.
Your time is short this year, but what you have done is a concrete example of a role model of social work supervisor for all social work students.
Xuyen Dangers is a social work supervisor in Laos who trains Social work university students as interns in Donkoi Children Development Center.