Social work students often share the common passion of wanting to improve the lives of those around them.
“If I meet someone who has a problem, I’m not happy until I help them,” says Ngozi Ivare, a second-year Dalhousie student in the Bachelor of Social Work Distance Delivery Program. “I love helping people and I love social work.”
This past spring, Ngozi and other Dalhousie Social Work students had the incredible opportunity to connect with social work students from the University of Greenland.
Gaining perspective from another lens
Every May, Dalhousie students from the Bachelor of Social Work Distance Delivery program come to campus for a two-week residency. This provides students a chance to connect with faculty and staff and collaborate with their classmates face-to-face.
This year, Dalhousie University and the School of Social Work opened its doors to social work students from the University of Greenland as well.
“It was a meaningful cross-cultural exchange,” explains Professor Gail Baikie. “Both groups of students share a passion for social justice and are curious about the similarities and differences within the contexts of social work, but also about how these issues are perceived and responded to.”
A unique opportunity
“It has been exciting,”says Mia Siegstad, one of the students from Greenland. “It has been interesting to meet new people and see how social workers in Canada do their work.”
The students visited Halifax from May 4-11. The visit exposed them to a host of experiences simply not available to them in Greenland.
“They don’t have trees in Greenland, which I found fascinating,” says Pam Birch, also a second-year Dalhousie student in the Bachelor of Social Work Distance Delivery Program. “We take that for granted every day, it was useful to take a breath and see things from a different perspective.” While the students from Greenland visited Halifax they experienced a host of different things including a visit to Africville, a tour of the upcoming SeaStar Child and Youth Advocacy Centre by project coordinator Christina Shaffer and a tour of Laing House, a peer support organization for youth living with mental illness.
The Greenland students also did presentations on the social issues they face on a daily basis. This allowed the Dalhousie students to engage with colleagues from a different culture and explore issues that are not as prevalent in Canada.
“Just hearing how they describe themselves was powerful,” says Pam. “They have more problems than most people might be used to but they smile through it all.”
“Hearing from the Greenland students was a great opportunity and a privilege,” says Ngozi. “It’s going to affect my social work career, knowing what challenges people go through, because here in Canada we feel like we have a lot of challenges but it doesn’t compare to what we saw in the Greenland students’ presentations.” From the presentations Ngozi, Pam and the other Dalhousie students learned that Greenland faces many hardships. Not only are their taxes very high, but they have a high poverty rate, many issues revolving around alcohol and drug abuse and sadly an extremely high suicide rate.
The visit was eye-opening for both the students from Greenland and Dalhousie. Dr. Baikie explained that it is important for students to recognize that social work exists throughout the world but that there are also cultural differences.
“With opportunities like these, we become more enlightened social workers.”
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