The Gift of Social Workers in Laos
As a professionally trained social worker, I have the privilege of being a supervisor and trainer in Laos for the past 18 years. Since I work in places where social services are needed, I have engaged in many settings and also trained local youth volunteers to do volunteering in hospitals, the National Rehabilitation Center, ….
As a professionally trained social worker, I have the privilege of being a supervisor and trainer in Laos for the past 18 years. Since I work in places where social services are needed, I have engaged in many settings and also trained local youth volunteers to do volunteering in hospitals, the National Rehabilitation Center, Lao Women Disabled Development Center, afterschool programs in public primary schools to help children and youth in dropout prevention programs, and with a drug rehabilitation center. After 10 years of experience with these direct services, I was able to help start the Social work Course at the National University of Laos (NUOL) in 2005, a country where social work education and professional practice do not exist.
While working with students in NUOL, I have seen the need for the social work students to be exposed to many social and medical settings. Because social work is not known in Laos and there is no policy on where social workers may practice, after much effort and lots of patience, perseverance and cultural sensibility, we received permission to place social work student volunteers at two general hospitals, one of which is National Children’s Hospital in the capital of Laos.
The social work students do volunteer work in the psychosocial services program. The social work students assist nurses and doctors and now there is a full-time social worker (who graduated in the first batch of social workers in Laos ) in one general hospital with full salary.
We now have several regular social work students volunteering. Some can come a few hours per day and others come only on Saturday. They work at the children’s department of Mahosot Hospital and the National Children’s Hospital. Their work is really appreciated by relatives of the patients.
Services include playing with children in the play room and in the wards, as well as lending out books for parents to read for their children. Social work students also read stories with books and puppetry when possible. Doctors really appreciate the help of social workers and social work students who have the skills to organize the special fun activities for patients and relatives and also to help the busy doctors and nurses relax as well.
We will continue to place social work students in medical settings so that the hospital administration will see the benefits of social work practice and the roles of social workers in effective treatment processes. There are still challenges but with perseverance social workers will be able to enhance the quality of life for people wherever they work, especially in health care.
Xuyen Dangers is a social worker in Laos/Vietnam. She serves as a Social work supervisor of Donkoi child center and 5 other centers, Social work advisor, Faculty of Social Sciences, and the National University of Laos, for Church World Service and Witness (NCCC).