Category Archives: trauma-informed

A Love Letter to Social Workers on the Front Lines of COVID-19

by Melanie Sage, LCSW, PhD

Editor’s note: This letter was written by Melanie in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and originally posted on LinkedIn on April 9, 2020.  We have re-published it here with her permission. It has received over 80,000 views, dozens of tweets and Facebook posts and has been reblogged twice. We are proud to have her as a member of our faculty at the University at Buffalo School of Social Work. Follow Melanie on Twitter at @melaniesage.

A white person's hand holds up a paper cut-out of a house agianst the sky. Its window is aligned with a bright sun shining through.

Social workers are often unsung heroes, and that’s often ok with them. They go about their work in the backgrounds of organizations that are meant to do other things: in hospitals that are meant to save lives, in schools that are meant to educate children. They work in child welfare agencies where the work is so sensitive that they avoid talking about it. In fact, most people don’t even want to think about it; they hear “social work” and say, “OH, I could never do that.”  Social workers try to show up with humility while giving their best help to people who are the most vulnerable.

 

Before I became a social work professor, I did casework in hospitals, child welfare agencies, crisis hotlines, and in the Veteran’s Administration. But now I am in the very privileged place of teaching others about social work while I reflect on, analyze, and research best practices for making the world a better place for the most vulnerable. I have not worked through a pandemic until now. Today I am telling you the stories of my colleagues, my former students, my current students- those I am connected to, like a string of hearts, with our value for social justice serving as a constant thread. I have asked permission to share these stories.

Against a blurred sunlit background, a clothesline has red paper heart clipped to the line.

One social worker I hear from is in her first semester of graduate school and is stationed in the emergency room of a New York City hospital, at “ground zero” of the pandemic. Her normally-bright affect is absent. I can see the exhaustion on her face and hear it in the pauses of her soft voice. One small part of her job is helping comfort families after the death of a loved one and preparing for what comes next: a mortuary, a funeral, their hopes for an honorable celebration of life, how they will manage their loss. Now she’s not sure about the procedure, things change every day. The mortuaries are full. How will they gather the remains? It’s not clear. She will figure it out. In some local hospitals, refrigerator trucks hold the overflow of remains of those lost to COVID-19. People say goodbye to dying loved ones through glass windows using walkie-talkies to avoid contamination. All this adds to the weight of the grief in this crisis. Like most social workers, she absorbs some of that grief. In normal times, she would process it with colleagues and supervisors, use self-care strategies, but there’s no time for that right now; the sadness sits with her. She is not only experiencing loss alongside her patients. She is not only afraid to bring home the virus. She is afraid to bring home the pain of patients and their families that she has collected all day long. She is afraid she will pass that on to her young child and her husband. She shares with me that some days she gets home and within an hour is called back- someone didn’t make it to their shift. More coverage is needed. She can hardly say no.

 

I get an instant message from another social work friend and ask her how she’s doing. She spends her workdays between two group homes; each houses 25 vulnerable men with difficulties stemming from substance abuse. They thrive on structure, some are recently released from prison. But nothing is normal right now. The outings they usually go on, from walks in the park to grocery trips to in-person recovery meetings are all on hold. The men have a limited amount of time to get ready for independence and worry that the pandemic will use up all their insurance-approved treatment time and that they won’t have jobs before they are expected to move out on their own. My friend tries to provide calm and structure within the walls of these group homes. She soothes anxiety and also makes sure all the normal things get done: medication management, daily living skills, online appointments, job search, treatment. She has found them virtual 12-step meetings, but it’s hard right now; they are abuzz with the news of COVID. And congregate care creates the risk of coronavirus spread. I am trying to make lemonade out of lemons every day, she says. Although she would love a good hug from her partner at the end of a stressful shift, my friend is sleeping in the guest room of her house to avoid contaminating him. There is no personal protective equipment (PPE) for her. She has made her own masks from fabric, although she knows it is not a good form of protection.

 

On the topic of PPEs, a student sheepishly tells me what she has done – she is deeply grounded in ethical practice but emotionally conflicted about how to balance her own care with that of her clients and community. The child welfare agency where she works is providing surgical masks to clients, but not to employees. She took one to use for herself, a disposable she is reusing several days in a row. She doesn’t want her own child to get sick, he has asthma; but still, she feels bad for using a tool meant for clients. She has talked to the agency about protecting workers, and the response from the administration is that they are “working on it.” Bureaucracy moves at a snail’s pace. They quietly condone the workers making “safe choices for themselves,” but avoid direct guidance about what that means in the context of the federally-mandated face-to-face contacts they must make. This student conducts interviews about child abuse on quiet front porches when she can, instead of going into houses, because maybe that’s safer. But minimizing contact is not always possible. Sometimes the call is an emergency, a mother is passed out after an overdose and needs medical care; the 2-year-old needs immediate safety. There’s no avoiding touching the child; not only is it cruel, but the child will also need carrying, buckling in car seats, a tight hug. Child welfare workers do the best they can with what they have, and often what they have is not enough.

 

Another student sends me an apologetic email. She’s going through a divorce and making a sudden move with her young child. She is currently working from home, but as a supervisor at the substance abuse center, she’s covering her work plus the work of another who is out on emergency leave. It’s hard to balance with her move. Her husband was laid off and will not be able to help with support. She will lose internet access for four days during the transition. It’s “a little chaotic with the move and work and my son at home” and could she have another few days on an assignment, it’s been hard to concentrate. Oh my goodness, who can concentrate right now, I try to tell her. All the real messiness of real life continues for each of the social workers as they provide invaluable services to their communities.

 

She tells me that many of the medical staff end up in the social work office since all this has started- a place they know people will hold space for all their grief. Social workers are not afraid of grief.

 

I hear from another social worker- a student in a rehabilitation care agency- the kind that we see on the news where outbreaks spread like wildfires and cause a string of deaths. They’ve closed down visits, even though visits are exactly the things that sustain hope for residents in her facility. She’s taken it upon herself to rally the team and find iPads to set up video visits for this group of folks who often have limited technology skills. She’s not sure how it will work, if it will work. She’s building the road as she drives down it. She tells me that many of the medical staff end up in the social work office since all this has started- a place they know people will hold space for all their grief. Social workers are not afraid of grief.

 

Holding space is just a thing social workers do. It means you can show up here with all the messy feelings. We won’t try to fix you or tell you not to cry or tell you that you shouldn’t feel that way. You can say the things that are not safe to say in other places. We will hold your words with confidence, and just as important, we will not judge you for saying them. We know that feelings are complicated, that they come in waves, that sometimes we just need someone to be with us and our Messy Feelings. We are holding space for a lot of people right now.

Two hands holding up cut letters in the sky that read "hope"

Doctors, nurses, respiratory specialists, and so many other emergency providers are still showing up every day to save lives. Social workers are there to make life worth living. They provide hope in the midst of loss, find resources for those who have none. Once the doctors rush out of the room, social workers sit with someone for an hour to conduct an assessment of their psychosocial histories- do they have anyone at home who will help? Will they be able to climb the stairs in their entryway? Are they having thoughts of suicide, and if so, can we talk about the guns in the house? They have all the hard conversations and try to leave the person with a sense of hope that things can, and will, get better.

 

As the pandemic winds down and hospital admissions return to normal, social workers will continue to pick up the pieces related to the domestic violence and child abuse that spikes during this kind of crisis. About 40% of social workers are employed with government agencies as vital members of public safety-net programs. Social workers will work with those who have fallen into depression and substance abuse. They will facilitate grief groups and individual therapy for the multiple kinds of loss experienced such as jobs, partners, parents, graduation ceremonies, and more. They will help children readjust to school after an extended absence, in some cases spent in chaotic environments. They will help agencies rethink policies and practices, collect and analyze data, and conduct community assessments so that we are better prepared for the next time this happens. They will lead conversations about how agencies can provide trauma-informed care in the face of widespread community trauma. Wise agencies will have a social worker at their tables during strategic planning to help think through the disparate impacts of this pandemic, and how to do better at ensuring equitable outcomes for vulnerable populations. As a fast-growing occupational path, social workers provide the majority of mental health services in our country and will be a vital part of our recovery.

And yet, social workers are often last in line for PPEs, for extra resources, for accolades. They are missing from the memes that say we should forgive all student loans, give raises to all the medical professionals when this is over, despite the fact that they are paid among the lowest of the essential health professionals. Still, they come up with resources out of nowhere, through a search of their electronic Rolodex of community agencies and personal contacts with whom they’ve nurtured relationships for a time just like this. You need iPads? You need a motel room, a bus voucher? You need a list of people to call in an emergency, a drug rehab that’s still accepting admissions? You need someone to talk to about the thing that happened that nobody else believes? Those are the things that social workers do. They are unsung heroes, and this is the reason for my love letter to social workers. If you know one, add them to the list of heroes of the pandemic, and please thank them for their miraculous work (from six feet away).

 

Melanie Sage is a social work academic researcher exploring ways that technology can enhance human connection and wellness. She is an Assistant Professor at the University at Buffalo School of Social Work.

#MacroSW Chat 2/13/2020: A Conversation with NASW about Legislative and Social Justice Priorities

Reblogged from #MacroSW: Where Social Workers Connect About Macro Practice,
Post by Kristen Battista-Frazee: https://macrosw.com/2020/02/10/macrosw-chat-2-13-2020-a-conversation-with-nasw-about-legislative-and-social-justice-priorities/
Editor’s Note: If you have any priorities that you’d like NASW to address, please email https://macrosw.com/contact-us/ or join the chat on Feb. 13th!

 

Announcment for teh February 23, 2020 #MacroSW Twitter Chat: "A conversation with NASW about legisaltive and social justice priorities." Photo is of a Black woman, weraing a blue dress,with black glasses adn a heart-shaped pendant.

The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) works on a range of policy initiatives which supports and affects social workers nationwide. All social workers can play a role in the policy work undertaken by NASW.  Also, your community priorities and efforts need to be shared to create necessary synergies a the local and national level.

Join our chat on Thursday, February 13 at 9 p.m. Eastern (6 p.m. Pacific) co-hosted by NASW who will share their legislation and social justice priorities and macro practice initiatives. The goal of this chat is for NASW to receive your feedback about their legislative work and learn about your policy priorities in your local community and state.

Questions from NASW

  1. What areas in macro practice do you think the social work profession should tackle?
  2. What issues and legislation are you and your organization working on?
  3. NASW signed on to a letter demanding President Donald Trump rejoin the Paris accord to address global warming. Is anyone working on the issue of climate change?
  4. How can NASW support what you are doing in macro practice and policy work?
  5. NASW has long been committed to improving the rights of people of color. What are you doing on this issue? How can you work with NASW to achieve the goal of equal rights for all? #MacroSW

Resources:

NASW Policy Issues

NASW Social Justice Priorities and Briefs

Protecting Social Workers and Health Professionals from Workplace Violence Act of 2019 (HR 5138/ S.2880)

Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Services Act introduced by Rep. Joe Courtney (D-CT) and co-sponsored by Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA),

Improving Access to Mental Health Act

Social Justice at the Crossroads of Environmental Justice and Reproductive Justice

by Meschelle Linjean

Editor’s Note: This is an extended version of the #MacroSW blog post for a 9-19-19 Twitter Chat www.macrosw.com

Our profession has called for inclusion of reproductive justice issues in social work education to promote self-determination in accordance with the NASW Code of Ethics (West, 2013). NASW included environmental justice as a 2018-2019 social justice priority (NASW, 2019). The focus of this chat will consider how environmental justice and reproductive justice are connected, and how this is expressed in our social work practice to advance social justice.

As the U.S. rolls back environmental policies aimed at curbing climate change and limiting air and water contamination, it is simultaneously opening more areas to environmental degradation (Gibbens, 2019).  Women, racial/ethnic minorities, low-income workers, and other vulnerable populations remain disproportionately exposed to hazardous chemicals that adversely affect reproductive health and children’s development. Additionally, as Indigenous communities lose their traditional cultural practices tied to the natural world, their capacity to pass on cultural knowledge to future generations declines.

Green tree with trunk that is shaped like the torso of a woman. Scales of justice are balanced on tree's lower limbs. There is a yello sun or ovun in the crown, and a yello speim heading up the trunk toward the egg.wiht a

Art: Neal Keller

Reproductive justice in the U.S. is rapidly regressing as lawmakers pass legislation that severely restricts access to and funding for sex education, family planning, women’s health services, birth control, and abortion services. Serious inadequacies in maternity and family leave, childcare support, and access to women’s and children’s healthcare continue unabated.This disproportionately affects those with low-income; undocumented immigrants; migrants; and racial/ethnic minority women and families.  African Americans and American Indians/Alaska Natives experience the highest maternal and infant mortality rates. Also affected are LGBTQ2S+ individuals, who face high rates of family planning discrimination. Individuals with disabilities experience high rates of rape and other sexual violence.

Intersectionality, ecology, and policy must be considered to address these conditions and arrive at social justice. The Ethical Principles section of the NASW Code of Ethics (2017) states that social workers challenge social injustice by pursuing social change with and on behalf of the vulnerable and oppressed, to promote sensitivity to and knowledge about oppression and diversity and ensure access to information, services, and resources; equality of opportunity; and meaningful participation in decision making for all people.

It is important for social workers to consider how environmental justice and reproductive justice are connected, and how this is expressed in our social work practice to advance social justice.

References

National Women’s Law Center. (n.d.). If you really care about environmental justice, you should care about reproductive justice! Retrieved from https://nwlc.org/wp-content/…/FactSheetEnvironmentalJusticeandReproJustice.pdf

Energy Justice Network (n.d.). Principles of environmental justice. Retrieved from
http://www.ejnet.org/principles.html

Gaard, G. (2010). Reproductive technology, or reproductive justice? An ecofeminist, environmental justice perspective on the rhetoric of choice. Ethics & the Environment, 15(2), 103–130. https://doi.org/10.2979/ETE.2010.15.2.103

Gibbens, S. (2019, February 1). 15 ways the Trump administration has changed environmental policies. National Geographic. Retrieved from https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/2019/02/15-ways-trump-administration-impacted-environment/

Grand Challenges for Social Work. (2019). Create social responses to a changing environment. Retrieved from
http://grandchallengesforsocialwork.org/grand-challenges-initiative/12-challenges/create-social-responses-to-a-changing-environment/ (see: Table 1. pp 16-17)

Gute, D. M., Siqueira, E., Goldberg, J. S., Galvão, H., Chianelli, M., & Pirie, A. (2009). The Vida Verde Women’s Co-Op: Brazilian immigrants organizing to promote environmental and social justice. American Journal of Public Health, 99(S3), S495–S498. https://doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.2008.148528

Hoover, E., Cook, K., Plain, R., Sanchez, K., Waghiyi, V., Miller, P., Carpenter, D. O.(2012). Indigenous peoples of North America: Environmental exposures and reproductive justice. Environmental Health Perspectives, 120(12), 1645–1649. https://doi.org/10.1289/ehp.1205422

Mosley, E. A., Bouse, C. K., & Stidham Hall, K. (2015). Water, human rights, and reproductive justice: Implications for women in Detroit and Monrovia. Environmental Justice (19394071), 8(3), 78–85.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6141208/

Murphy, V., Zajicek, A. Norris, A. and Hamilton, L.  (Eds.) (2009). Introduction. In Incorporating intersectionality in social work: Practice, research, policy and education (pp 1-3).  Washington DC: NASW Press. Retrieved from https://www.naswpress.org/publications/practice/inside/intersectionality-in-social-work-intro.html

National Association of Social Workers. (2017). Code of ethics. Retrieved from
https://www.socialworkers.org/About/Ethics/Code-of-Ethics/Code-of-Ethics-English

National Association of Social Workers. (2019). Social justice priorities, 2018-2019. Retrieved from https://www.socialworkers.org/Advocacy/Social-Justice/Social-Justice-Priorities

National Association of Social Workers New Jersey Chapter. (n.d.). Environmental justice is social justice. Retrieved from https://naswnj.site-ym.com/page/envjustice/Environmental-Justice.htm

Sister Song. (n.d.). Reproductive justice. Retrieved from https://www.sistersong.net/reproductive-justice

Wehrmann, K. C. (n.d.). Environmental justice challenge awaits. Retrieved from https://www.socialworkers.org/News/NASW-News/ID/1604/Environmental-justice-challenge-awaits

West, R. L. (2013, March 21). Interview with Social Workers for Reproductive Justice Maggie Rosenbloom. Social Work Helper. Retrieved from https://www.socialworkhelper.com/2013/03/21/interview-with-social-workers-for-reproductive-justice/

Zimmerman, K. & Miao, V. (2009). Fertile ground: Women organizing at the intersection of environmental justice and reproductive justice. Retrieved from www.racialequitytools.org/resourcefiles/zimmerman.pdf  (especially pp. 26-27; 29-33).

 

Meschelle Linjean: She is smiling. She has long dark hair and wears a purple patterned top. We see the left earring, many strands of small beads.

Meschelle Linjean

An enrolled citizen of the Cherokee Nation and originally from northeastern Oklahoma, Meschelle Linjean currently lives in Alexandria, Virginia, and is in her third year of the University at Buffalo’s part-time, online MSW program. She is scheduled to graduate in August 2020. Meschelle’s recent work includes collecting data on social determinants of health among patients at a federally qualified health center and coordinating efforts with community social service organizations to link patients with non-medical services aimed at improving their health and wellbeing. She completed her first field placement in the foster care division of the Department of Family Services in Fairfax County, Virginia, and will complete her advanced field placement at Native American Lifelines, a non-profit, Indian Health Service-contracted, program that provides trauma informed and culturally centered care to promote health and social resiliency among Urban Natives living in and around Baltimore, Maryland. Meschelle is particularly interested in culturally centered paradigms for understanding and addressing individual, family, and community distress. She hopes to continue working to improve health outcomes for those who have endured historical trauma, intergenerational trauma and adverse childhood experiences (ACEs). She also has an interest in ecological/environmental social work and the connections between health, well being, and disruptions to implementing traditional ecological knowledge.

How to cite this blog post:

Linjean, M. (2019, September 13). Promoting Social Justice At the Crossroads: Environmental and Reproductive Justice. [Blog Post]. Retrieved from:
https://socialworksynergy.org/2019/09/13/promoting-social-justice-at-the-crossroads-of-environmental-justice-and-reproductive-justice-macrosw-chat-sept-19-2019/

A Teacher’s Guide to Bullying Infographic

by Pat Shelly and Corinne Fiegl

Corinne Fiegl is a MSW student at the University at Buffalo School of Social Work, and the creator of this infographic.  During her foundation year 2018-19, her field placement was in a Buffalo Public School, working with PreK- 8th grade students. This year, as part of the Hartford Partnership Program in Aging Education Program (HPPAE), she will be at the Amherst (NY) Center for Senior Services. She will graduate in May 2020.

Corinne facing camera and smiling. Young white woman, wearing a blue patterned shirt. She has long blonde hair.

Corinne chose bullying as the topic of this infographic as part of a social work course assignment during the Spring 2019 semester. Students were asked to create an infographic that addresses a macro issue affecting the clientele served in one’s internship. Bullying is an issue in schools across the nation; she began to see it firsthand in the interactions among the students at her placement. She hopes to raise awareness about bullying and its effects, and that the infographic will serve as a quick checklist on resources for teachers to use in prevention efforts or interventions. Teachers are trained on this topic, and certainly most have seen student-to-student bullying, but having an “on-hand” resource to address bullying could make a difference in the lives of their students and improve safety in the school. It is also a reminder of just how widespread it is: one in three report being bullied.

In planning this infographic, she found it was important to organize information carefully to make a clear and concise infographic. Corinne’s hope is that “A Teacher’s Guide to Bullying” will educate readers and encourage other school social work interns to make a difference in their work environments.

 

This infographic is sharable, with no changes, and with credit to Corinne Fiegl, under Creative Commons license
CC BY-ND.

Attribution-NoDerivs

 

This infographic, A Teacher's Guide to Bullying, has modes of bullying, types, frequencies, traits targeted by bullies, signs, impact, and interventions. Illustrated with paper cut-outs of humans, a sad face, drwing of a brain, and a silhouwette of a man in a suit with a pointer.

A Teacher’s Guide to Bullying by Corinne Fiegl  CC BY-ND

 

 

 

 

Social Work and Human Rights: Report from My Study Abroad – Part II

by Kristen Hibit

Editor’s Note: This is the second of a series of two blog posts by University of Buffalo School of Social Work MSW student Kristen Hibit, reporting on her recent study abroad with Dr. Elisabeth Reichert’s Global Seminar on Social Work and Human Rights, based in Munich, Germany. The link to Kristen’s first part is here: https://socialworksynergy.org/2019/06/11/social-work-and-human-rights-report-from-my-study-abroad/ 

All photos below are courtesy of the author.

 

Day 4-

Today’s focus was around women’s issues and mental illness by visiting Frauren Therapie Zentrum (Women’s Therapy Center). During the 1970’s, like the US, Germany experienced a psychiatric movement to give more rights to people with mental illness. Within this movement Frauren Therapie Zentrum was born and has been serving the community for over 40 years. They apply feminist, trauma and empowerment theory not only in their approach with their clients but also within their organizational culture. Many of their clients are immigrants and have suffered from traumatic experiences. They provide direct services to women and children and also demonstrate a commitment to politics through advocacy and policy efforts. They have trained and worked with other agencies to systematically identify trauma and abuse by administering appropriate questions to women in hospitals, doctors’ offices etc. They receive their funding through the City of Munich government and regularly meet with the government to report services and discuss collective goals.

 

Sunny room with wicker chairs, small tables, a plant in front of a window, and a rack with pamphlets. An abstract painting is hung on the wall.

Frauren Therapie Zentrum (Women’s Therapy Center), Munich.

Their services include:

  • Counseling for people with psychosocial and psychosomatic issues through individual and group sessions
  • Counseling for women who have been violent to their domestic partner
  • Counseling, case management and crisis intervention for women with mental health issues, specializing in immigrants and mothers
  • Occupational therapy: training to improve concentration, endurance, self-assertiveness, cooperation and relaxation
  • Day care center for women with mental health problems for socialization and empowerment
  • Outpatient social and health services for women with substance abuse through counseling, case management and reintegration
  • Provide training to professionals in the mental health field

 

I was very impressed with the array of comprehensive services that Frauren Therapie Zentrum offers to support women with mental health issues. Their strong relationship with the City of Munich government seems to allow them to provide consistent services and their long history in serving women creates strong reputation within the community. Their integration of occupational therapy and work with other agencies demonstrates the importance and effectiveness of interprofessional collaboration and approaches to specific issues and in serving clients.

 

 

Day 5-

We took a tour of Dachau Concentration Camp, one of the first Nazi concentration camps, that opened in 1933. I was not sure how I would feel visiting a site where such horrible human rights violations occurred—genocide, torture, exploitation. I was interested to learn more about the Nazi regime especially from a German perspective. In order to truly honor human rights, we must understand and learn from our history which is why this visit was so important. You can of course find much historical information on the Dachau Concentration Camp, but what I most wanted to share with you are the interesting facts shared by our tour guide.

A guide stands speaking to a small group of people in front of descriptive sign in Dachau Concentration Camp.

Dachau Concentration Camp, May 2019.

In the beginning days of Dachau, politicians were among the first prisoners. There was no plan during the first days, so prisoners were first stripped of their clothes and belongings and assigned to hard, physical labor that had no real purpose. Prisoners were told that work would set them free: “Arbeit befreit dich.”

 

Row of low grey buildings - barracks- set back from a large graveled yard. Poplar trees rise behind the barracks.

Dachau Concentration Camp. May 2019.

The first barracks housed 2,000 people with 2,000 beds. During the last days before its liberation in 1945, there were no beds. Over 206,000 people came to Dachau from over 40 nations. As the regime continued to bring prisoners to Dachau, more populations entered the camp and were labeled—Jews, people in interracial populations, people with disabilities, homosexuals etc.

 

What I found most disturbing about the entire visit was the cremation area. The cremation area was separate from the main camp. Mass extermination began when the camp got more and more over crowded. Prisoners were assigned to the cremation area and were responsible for cremating other prisoners. These areas were separated so that there was no communication between these prisoners to find out about the mass exterminations.

 

The citizens of Dachau knew about the camp as prisoners arrived at the town train station and marched to the camp. Photos of healthy, newly arrived prisoners were released by the Nazis to show that the people were in good care—the power of propaganda. Even the Red Cross was called to the camp and released reports that conditions were fair. The Red Cross has since admitted knowing about the Holocaust and claimed responsibility for their silence. This demonstrates the fear and control that the Nazi party had on individuals and organizations. Many other companies supported the Nazi party during this time. Hugo Boss created Nazi uniforms; Mercedes and BMW created machinery. I especially appreciated learning this information as I am interested in ethical supply chains. To this day, BMW is one of the largest companies that has not paid reparations to survivors.

A major part of human rights is being able to say something or do something when something is not right. We learned about the brave people of Dachau who tried to seek justice and assist prisoners through small acts. We can credit the few citizens of Dachau who were able to sneak food to prisoners at parts of prison walls, the prisoners who snuck photos of the camp to expose the true conditions, the prisoner who built a radio to learn , the prisoners who tried to escape and the people who immigrated to the US and shared their knowledge.

 

Row of poplar trees on left, with wide graveled sections, divided by concrete curbs.

Dachau Concentration Camp. May 2019.

The entire day was quite heavy. It was painful to hear about the processes of the camp and the horrible actions carried out by the Nazi party. It is completely disheartening that humans are capable of treating other humans in such a cruel capacity. Power can be quite dangerous and we need to understand who holds power and what that means for others. We must never forget what we have learned from Dachau. We must remember that when we are in our own communities and see something that is not right, not matter how small or large, we must say something to truly uphold human rights.

 

After we returned to Munich, my roommate Kayla and I headed to Olympiapark, which housed the 1972 Olympics, to process everything we learned and felt from our day at Dachau. I am being more conscious about my own self-care. Self-care includes allowing yourself time to process information and feelings. I am glad we did so in such a beautiful space in Munich!

View in Olympia Park Munich: A huge tree backlit by sun, wiht green field and sunny sky. f

Olympia Park, Munich: Suited for Self-care.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 6-

We took a day trip to Nuremberg by train to visit the Documentation Center Nazi Party Rally Grounds (Propaganda Museum) and Nuremberg Court House where the Nuremburg trails took place. Unfortunately, the Documentation Center did not have English information headsets available at the time of our visit, so we were not able to get the most out of our visit. The Documentation Center focuses on the tactics and media used by the National Socialist to hold rallies and spread information during the dictatorship. The museum is on the grounds where the party held rallies and Hilter gave some of his most famous speeches.

Large brick building curves around oval courtyard.

Documentation Center, Munich, June, 2019.

Posters and photos from Nazi-era Germany from the Documentation Center in Munich.

Posters and photos from Nazi-era Germany from the Documentation Center in Munich.

 We concluded our day at the Memorium Nuremberg Trials and Courthouse. This courtroom is significant in history because it hosted the Nuremberg Trials where leaders of the Nazi regime were tried by the International Military Tribunal. These trials had a major influence on international criminal law and human rights. Twenty-two people and seven organizations were tried on crimes against peace and humanity, forced labor, conspiracy and war crimes—new concepts used in a fair trial.

 

 

Courtroom at Nuremberg, with wood paneling and coffered ceilings. Two chandeliers are brightly lit, and a cross hangs ont e wall behind the bench with its five chairs.

Courtroom, Memorium, Nuremberg.

Having just visited Dachau, I could not help but think about the courageous survivors who provided testimony that helped seek justice and the re-traumatization that they must have experienced during that trial period. I really enjoyed my time at the Memorium as I learned a lot about the key players in International Military Tribunal and the international response to such crimes. These trails hold a legacy in an international commitment to human rights and holding states accountable for human rights abuses.

 

Day 7-

We had a free day to explore Munich or greater Bavaria so I headed to Garmisch-Partenkirchen, a ski village that hosted the 1936 Olympics. If you ever have the opportunity to visit southern Bavaria, you should do so. It was the most breath taking, incredible experiences.

We went up to the top of the highest mountain in Germany, Zugspitze, via train and cable car. WOW is all I can say!

View of snowy mountain peaks repeating to the horizone, with blue sky and clouds hovering over the peaks.

Zugspitze, the highest mountain in Germany.

Flowers are foreground, river streams past houses, mountains seen in distance.

Garmische, June 2019.

 

We then took a cable car to Eibsee lake and took a boat around the lake for the most gorgeous views.

I am a lover of the outdoors so it was nice to get out of the city and experience beautiful nature. We live in an incredibly beautiful world. I highly recommend visiting this town if you have the opportunity!

 

Day 8-

 Our entire program took a break from coursework and took a day trip to Salzburg, Austria. This was my first time in Austria making it #27 of my countries visited. We explored the city center and visited Hohensalzburg Fortress, one of the largest medieval fortresses in Europe.

Looking up at the Fortress, built upon a cliff.

The Fortress

View looking down on Salzburg cathedral, in city center.

Salzburg Cathedral.

 

The top of the fortress offers incredible views of the entire city and the Alps! What a beautiful city between the architecture, clean streets and posh businesses.

 

 

Day 9-

On the last day of our program, we visited Adwiga, an agency that assists survivors of human trafficking. I was most interested in visiting this agency because my field placement this year was with Freedom Network USA, a coalition of organizations and individuals who utilize a human right based approach to human trafficking. I was interested in learning how the agency and Germany respond the issue in collaboration with other countries within the EU, especially with the influx of migration from Africa and the Middle East.

We met with Adina, a licensed counselor for Adwiga, who also conducts research at the European Commission. The agency provides counseling and case management services for survivors of human trafficking. They work directly with police, who provide many of their referrals, and also work within refugee camps to screen for human trafficking. Adigwa works closely with the International Organization for Migration and Europole International Investigations on trafficking; most trafficking cases cross boarders within the EU. As in the US, it is difficult to prosecute cases. According to their national report about 800 cases were closed last year. Germany does not incarcerate perpetrators often, but traffickers do owe restitution to survivors, who are entitled to that as well as social benefits and accommodations. Adigwa counselors come from many of the countries that survivors come from, and thus can communicate in the native language of the client, with no need for telephonic interpretation.

 

members of this huan rights course stand on steps in a partially shaded sunny path.

The group! (Dr. Elisabeth Reichert, far left)

 

Our group concluded our program with a final discussion on how human rights must be integrated into all levels of service provision and in all industries. We all agreed that although the US had great influence in constructing and upholding human rights, the US needs to improve policies and services provisions to be more accountable.

 

 

 

Stay tuned for a final reflection of the program and being abroad!

hibit photo with salzburg view

Kristen Hibit, Salzburg, Austria, June 2019

Kristen Hibit is a full-time MSW student slated to graduate in May 2020. Kristen currently works as a Immigrant Work Specialist at the New York State Department of Labor, Division of Immigrants Policies and Affairs. She provides workers’ rights education and services to immigrant workers, and labor law compliance education to agricultural businesses. Previously, Kristen worked with refugee populations developing employment services and business partnerships to facilitate and support the hiring of refugees. Kristen recently completed her first placement at Freedom Network USA, a coalition of experts and advocates that utilize a human-rights-based approach to human trafficking. Kristen is focusing on macro social work and is particularly interested in policy work and human rights surrounding immigrant and refugee populations,and how this can be integrated into organizational structures to solve systemic issues.

 

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