University of Brighton and University of Gondar Social Work Departments connect 2016

Following contact between CUPP, Bahir Dar University and Gondar University in Ethiopia a couple of years ago (resulting in two social work academics joining CUPP’s programmes last year), the University of Gondar requested connections and future potential partnership with the Social Work department at the University of Brighton. This month, Cath Holmstrom, Head of SW at UoB and National Teaching Fellow, visited Gondar for 15 days to contribute to teaching, research discussions, present some of her own research and explore potential areas for future collaboration at individual and group levels.

Cath spent many mornings with these MSW students on the Social Work practice with Families and Children course. The curriculum is very similar to US and UK social work studies, but of course the context is different. The students were able to explore with Cath the local relevance/not of particular approaches and theories and practice models.

In addition to the teaching with MSW students, Cath also gave a lecture to the large group of BSW students and, significantly, spent an afternoon presenting some of her own material about professional pedagogy, virtue and character as well as regulation and political involvement in reform of the UK social work profession and training in the hope that this will assist those such as our Ethiopian colleagues who are beginning the process of professional regulation and related processes.

The Mission and Values statement posted outside of the Social Science and Humanities faculty (in which Social work is located) shows the strength of commitment to the community, the students and the values are admirable for a professional programme too. There is much that the two social work departments share despite the different context and this provides an excellent basis for future collaboration and joint work of different kinds. Whilst in Gondar, Cath also visited a project for HIV+ women who have been rejected by their families where they learn traditional crafts so that they have skills when they return to their villages and also an ‘orphanage’ project for street children that is in line with UK emphasis upon family/small group homes. In addition, a visit to a volunteer run only project for street dwelling elders and disabled people was inspirational and shows the strength and also vulnerability of community-based initiatives. We hope that we can work together to evaluate the work done and secure more sustainable funding as well as build upon the strong community support.

Social Work is an international profession committed to human rights and social justice. Through our contact and collaboration we hope to build a rich and sustainable relationship that shares the values and commitments so core to our profession. CUPP’s work and approaches are fundamental to this too.