Friday, April 22, 2011

Luz y Libertad

By: Chelsae Crivello 
Augsburg College   

    The social work and migration and globalization groups went Luz y Libertad, a Christian Based Community. Luz y Libertad is a group of women in Cuernavaca that work to make the religion of God a reality, which is justice, liberty, respect, truth, solidarity and care.  They explained that a Christian Based Community is “a church in the movement, not a movement in the church”.  We had the privilege of talking with five women who helped run this group.  These strong women were very inspiring and not only have they worked hard to create this group but they have also been verbally assaulted from husbands and other members of their church.
       These women started meeting once a week just to reflect on the work of God and over time they realized that they needed to do more.  They created three groups within Luz y Libertad, a nutrition workshop, craft workshop, and a self-esteem workshop.  The nutrition workshop teaches women how to nourish themselves inexpensively.  They teach women how to cook with soy and they also teach them how to make bread and pastries so they can sell them if they need the money.  The craft workshop teaches women how to make crafts to sell so they can start to financially support themselves without their husbands.  The self-esteem workshop creates a space where women can engage together and become aware of social cultural conditions.  All of these groups teach women to become less dependent on their husbands because sexism is deeply rooted in the Mexican culture.  For example, the women explained that after 25 years of working it is almost impossible to find a job so these groups teach women how to financially support themselves and not have to rely on the husbands for money.
      Other than all the wonderful programs and community building they have done within Cuernavaca, Luz y Libertad was also able to go to a conference in Canada.  One woman said, “Although we didn’t speak the same language, we still spoke the same language”.  They felt very privileged to go to a conference to share the same passions other people had around the world. 
      After talking with the women of Luz y Libertad the students got the chance to eat their delicious food and reflect on the conversation.  It was very inspiring listening to the women of Luz y Libertad. They are all very strong women and work hard to better their community, as one woman put it, “If everyone put their grain of sand in we would have a different future”.  For me as a social work student, it was an honor listening to these women.  They have been through a lot, they have been attacked by people who do not agree, and have not been rightfully acknowledged for all of their work but they still keep on going. 

Friday, April 15, 2011

Social Work students visit Creseo de Atacholoaya

Creseo de Atacholoaya
By: Carissa Rein
Winona State University

Social Work students received a tour of the Creseo de Atlacholoaya. The Creseo de Atlacholoaya is one of the main prisons in the state of Morelos. The Creseo consists of two prisons; one for women and one for men. The men’s prison contains 2,000 men. The women’s prison contains 200 women.  In each prison there are two different living quarters. One of the living quarters is for the inmates who have received their sentencing and the other is for inmates who are waiting to receive their sentence.

At Creseo there are many social workers that are available to work with the inmates, but of course there are not enough. The social workers job consists of working with the inmates and their families. While working with the inmates the social worker serves as a counselor. They help them while they are living in the prison because many of the inmates have a hard time transitioning to life in prison.

The social workers organize workshops that the inmates can participate in. The workshops available to the inmates consist of learning to work with yarn, fabric, wood, metals and more. After the inmates complete these workshops they create objects to sell. The inmates also have the option to work in a Maqilladora that is onsite at the prison. In this Maquilladora they make masks and hats for hospital personnel. Participating in the workshops and working around the prison will reduce the inmates’ sentencing time.

The social workers also, help the inmates enroll in school. The inmates have the ability to graduate from high school and even attend college while in the prison. Elementary and middle school education are free, but when they would like to attend high school, they are charged the same amount that they would be charged if they were going to a high school in the city.

This experience for me was very beneficial and informational. I have never really known what goes on inside a prison. Many people end up in prison because they were once mixed up in something that they shouldn’t have been. I believe society has shaped our view on the people we call “criminals” who occupy our jails and prisons. Some people have committed crimes in their life but that doesn’t mean that they are bad people.  People make mistakes, and I am the first one to agree with that.

It is amazing to me that the Cereos gives the inmates the opportunity to start their life over and create it how they would like. Whether that is creating objects to sell or graduating from high school. Both of these can be very beneficial to the life of the inmate once their sentence has ended.

From this experience I have began to think of a variety of different questions. For example, what beliefs do I/you hold about people who have been convicted of crimes and sentenced to time in prison? What does society have to do with how we view criminals? What do you think about the services offered to the inmates?

Friday, April 8, 2011

US Embassy

By: Whitney Traut
St. Olaf College

While in Mexico City, our group had the opportunity to visit the U.S. Embassy—an experience that touched on some of the most sensitive issues surrounding immigration, human rights, international relations, and United States foreign policy. After going through fairly stringent security to enter the building, we were greeted by a panel of United States representatives who covered issues such as immigrant and non-immigrant visas, economic relations, environmental issues, and gangs and drug trafficking. While all of these issues are of immediate relevance to the social work profession, the discussion of the extremely difficult, selective, and tedious process for visa applications was of particular interest to many in our group. 

Before even discussing U.S. policy towards Mexican immigration—a controversial and often heated political and social issue—one representative prefaced that immigration reform is up to Congress and not the people in the embassy, and that the embassy has no jurisdiction in immigration laws. Thus, the employees of the embassy simply carry out the decisions made by the government. Nevertheless, the embassy described to us the application process in which those applying for non-immigrant (temporary) visas have to pay exuberant fees, prove family and social ties to Mexico—which basically comes down to possession of large amounts of accumulated wealth, property and capital—a high level of education, and a “good” job. In the “worst-case” scenario, the representative commented that the applicant navigates through the long and complicated process for up to 15 years, pays hundreds of dollars, and ultimately doesn’t qualify. Moreover, in addition to the objective criteria, many of us were startled to hear that admittance was basically subjective —one representative commented that they relied basically on a “gut-feeling” and decided within the first two minutes of an interview whether the applicant was worthy of a visa. For immigrant (permanent) visas, the process is even more complicated and selective, with a back-log of 15 years.

As social workers, we are challenged to view such policies with a critical lens and, moreover, serve as advocates for those whose voices are often silenced under layers of bureaucracy: how do we support individuals entrenched in a process that presents such extreme obstacles and challenges to issues such as family reunification and employment opportunities? In a process described by the agency itself as “subjective,” how can we help advocate for applicants and prevent discrimination based on race and class?
Social Work student in front of  "El Monumento de la Revolucion"

Friday, April 1, 2011

Not All Maquiladoras are the Same

By: Teal Inzunza
Fordham University

Last Friday we had the great opportunity to visit a maquiladora.  For all those who are unsure, a maquiladora is basically like a factory and in Mexico it is usually a factory that specializes in making some sort of clothing.  I have heard horror stories about maquiladoras when I was in the US.  Human Rights groups spewed stories of sweatshop conditions, low pay, and practically slave master owners of these places.  In fact, Mexican maquiladoras are fairly notorious in the US for being terrible places to work.  Many US companies, especially clothing companies, come to Mexico to set up shop because of the cheap labor.  This has gotten a lot of press within the US because of the unethical and illegal low wages that they pay the workers and the terrible conditions that many of these factories have. We learned that the minimum wage in Mexico is around $57 pesos per day about roughly $5 dollars per day. The Mexican minimum wage, like the US minimum wage, is far from a living wage and we have seen how hard it really is to live on a salary here in Mexico. We are beginning to see how Mexico’s huge gap between the rich and the poor affects the country.  This gap, which is caused corruption and monopolies in government and business, makes it so that “40 percent of Mexicans live in poverty, while roughly 28 percent live in extreme poverty” (Edmonds-Poli & Shirk, 2009, p. 271).  When more than 30 million people are living in extreme poverty in a country, you begin to see how these policies and businesses affect real people. 

Knowing all of the things I just said, I was expecting something much different than what I saw.  Although I had been to a maquiladora last semester, this one was very different.  When we arrived, the staff greeted us enthusiastically and we were ushered into a large room with all of the workers.  This visit was completely different from the maquiladora I had visited before.  The workers were not wearing a uniform, and if fact because we had visited on a Friday, many looked ready to enjoy the weekend and were wearing high heels.  The workers were listening to their own music and were joking and laughing around with each other. This particular maquiladora specialized in making swimsuits, and I took a peak at one of the tags and it was for a very know company in the US.  One of the administrators told us that they were like a family there, and the crazy thing is that I believe him.  He also told us that they didn’t need a union because they had him and that they trusted him to take up their issues when they had them.  We learned that this is one of the better maquiladoras in the country and in fact it was winning an award for how well it treated its employees. I guess the moral of this story is that not all maquiladoras are the same.  

Edmonds-Poli, E., & Shirk, D.A. (2009).  Contemporary Mexican politics.  Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.

Friday, March 25, 2011


By: Alicia Fowler
Augsburg College
            This has been a busy week for us students as we have started to transition ourselves from living among one another in Casa CEMAL and Verde to living with our familias Mexicanas (Mexican families). Before the move students expressed a variety of emotions but, I’m glad to say after one week we are feeling happy, welcomed, and comfortable in our new environments. I am excited to hear about all of the wonderful stories which will be brought back to Casa Verde and CEMAL upon everyone’s return.
            For many of us doing homestays are new experiences. The homestay experience provides us with an opportunity to live with a Mexican family for a month. During this month we will continue to learn more about the Mexican culture and all of the beautiful aspects it has to offer. This experience is also a way for us to challenge ourselves to put aside our way of life and let others introduce a different way of life to us.
            Personally I was feeling very overwhelmed and nervous about doing a home stay because I am in the beginning stages of learning Spanish and was concerned about language being a barrier of me getting to know my family. Although, I have only been living with my new family for a little over a week all my fears and doubts about this homestay are gone. I have learned so much about my family in the small amount of time that we have spent together. I have been able to use and practice my Spanish daily and I can already see improvement and increased confidence. My family is doing a wonderful job of helping me learn and better understand the Spanish language. They are very understanding of where I am at and take the time to explain things to me without making me feel like a burden to them. I am falling in love with speaking Spanish and it saddens me that this experience is a temporary one. I can’t express enough how valuable and important I know this home stay will be and has been thus far.
Students who have done homestays before have always said that those experiences in the homestay were most memorable to them and I understand why now. When I return back to Minnesota I can’t wait to encourage others to study abroad and take advantage of the wonderful programs their Colleges and Universities have to offer. Experiential learning is such a beautiful way to learn and gain new insight about a different culture and those different from ourselves.
To those with fears and doubts about studying abroad I would ask, “What is really holding you back?” We are given once in a lifetime experiences and they don’t last forever. There will be a day when you go back to your home community and are welcomed home by friends and family. You will go back to work, school and the same old routine you once left. But those memories abroad will stay with you forever, and will forever have impact on your future and how you view life.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Family is one of the strongest support systems in México

By: Daniel Knight 
Seattle University
          During this week the Social Work students were able to experience two viewpoints of the organization of The Development of Integrating Families, “Desarrollo Integral de la Familia” (DIF). DIF began with The National Agency to Family Development, which in Spanish is “Sistema Nacional para el Desarrollo Integral de la Familia” (SNDIF). The organization DIF began in the early 80s and has worked to improve the wel lbeing of children and the families with lack of resources. While in our rural home stays, we had a visit to the DIF offices and then in the beginning of this week, we were able to speak with a DIF representative, who was a workerof one of the programs in the organization, Defense of Minor and Department of Adoption.  It was quite interesting to hear that they did not vary much in their programs compared to the United States.
            DIF is very much in comparison with the United States in many ways. They make sure there are programs for the elder, children, and families who are in need of assistance. They do not quite have the same payment plans as the U.S., but there is nonetheless assistance. For instance they have a program, Social Assistance, which supports children living on the streets and/or with disabilities. The program also helps with food services, scholarships and grants for single mothers, and shelters for all age groups. This program is very similar to our WIC program in the United States, which helps out young children. Another similar program is the food stamps because they too, like the food services, allow families to buy a good amount of food for themselves. It is always nice to see that fellow countries are doing their part to keep families together and healthy, but there were some things stated during our visits that would seem different than what we are used to in the social programs and organizations in the United States.  
          As we continued asking about certain programs and what else is offered for families with certain situations, the topic of leadership and positions were brought up.  We learned that many of the times the new governor of each state and/or municipality tends to appoint any female relative to be the president of the DIF. This shows some of the irregularities that happen in many organizations, sometimes that we as US citizens would not be accustom to. 
Una Familia en el Zocalo
         As the president began talking more about the programs they were working, there was definitely a sense of caring and also sadness for the families she interacts with. She spoke about the fact that she would not be able to see the results of her programs since every six years there is a reelection for a new president in the DIF offices. This really shows just how unstable some of the social programs can be and consistency is needed more than ever. Another thing that was very strongly demonstrated as we visited these organizations were the way services were ran for children without parents, or parents that could not take care of them.
After our visit to the DIF we were able to meet with a worker in the Defense of Minor and Department of Adoption. We learned that in México, there is no such thing as foster care.  Here in Morelos, there is no foster care, and she did say they are working on that. The reasons she gave for why foster care has not yet been implemented was because then the child’s heart will be broken if the family decides they do want them anymore. It would just be more loss for the child so they try to find one of their family members first and then if that is not possible then a shelter, which is like an orphanage.
  A lot of the organization deals with kids and sometimes it does not always seem ethical, or ethical to us, but who are we to judge. Maybe our ways do not seem ethical to them. Every social worker is still working on what is ethical compared to what is not. To what we have heard, it seems DIF has definitely progressed since it first began, but there is so much more that needs to be addressed. All they want to do is focus on keeping families together and hope that they are doing our best!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Human Faces of Migration

By: Rebecca Rathjen
St. Olaf College

Students preparing to listen to the stories of migrants
*Please note: names have been changed to protect the privacy of those described

This week all the students of CGE had the opportunity to live in  a rural indigenous town for four days. Divided into pairs of students we lived with generous host families who provided us with a home, food, and great conversation.

For me, the most impacting experience was listening to the stories of two men, Pedro and Victor* of the town who had migrated illegally to the United States to pursue work. Although we had read books about the lives of migrant workers, hearing the stories first hand was much more impacting. Further, I was living with Victor’s family and had met his wife, twin sons, parents, aunts, uncles, and brothers- the people for whom Victor was working to provide.

Victor described his experience of migration as good and bad, but mostly bad. Motivated by the prospect of work in the United States and the lack of opportunities in Mexico, Victor first migrated to California in 1996, he worked for 2.5 years.

Victor then returned to Mexico, got married, and a year and a half later his wife became pregnant. Victor, always determined to provide the best for his family, decided with his wife that he would return to the US to find work despite knowing that he would miss the birth of his first children-twins. Unfortunately, in the US Victor was approached and humiliated by immigration officials and then deported. He returned home to his wife, defeated and depressed.

Despite this road block, months later Victor again made his way to the United States crossing the Altar desert in May facing dangerously hot temperatures and dehydration. In Colorado Victor worked for a chain café he had previously worked for and moved his way up in the kitchen to head chef. He worked for three years.

Victor, now living in back in his town with his wife and nine-year old twins, expressed to us the simple desire of migrant workers to work and earn money for their families. It was clear to me that he strives to provide stability and security for his family, the same dreams of families across the world. Victor hopes that his sons can attend university and increase their opportunities.

Most importantly migrant workers are human beings, with families, friends, and communities who put themselves in very vulnerable positions during migration, as workers, as illegal citizens living in crowded conditions in unsafe neighborhoods. Meeting Victor and hearing his story first hand has changed my opinion about migrant workers and has helped me to see the human aspect of migration, that all people are doing their best to provide for their families, even if that means breaking the law.

What stereotypes do US citizens hold about Mexican migrant workers? What would it take to change these stereotypes?
Colorful streets of the town

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Social Work Students Experience Traditional Healing

By: Billy Hamilton
Augsburg College

Social work students spent four days in a rural community in the state of Morelos to learn about the role of social workers from rural Mexican contexts. Many members of the community embrace many different forms of traditional healing to treat—what western society may label—physical diseases, mental disorders, and pregnancies. Or, community members use traditional healing simply to build one’s spirit and heighten attention to one’s internal state of affairs.

"Photo of  a Temazcal--
students went inside in groups of 8-9
Two of these practices that social work students experienced were the Temazcal (sweat lodge) and the Limpia (cleansing). The Temazcal, from indigenous Nahuatl culture, is a type of bath designed to cleanse the spirit. Social work students experienced a 20-30 minute sweat inside a small adobe structure. After receiving a blessing with incense, students crawl on hands and knees backward into the four-foot structure. Crawling backwards represents retreating into the womb of Mother Nature. Once inside, the leader of the Temazcal poured water on burning volcanic rocks and used Fresno branches and leaves to disperse heat inside the small structure. After 20-30 minutes, students crawled out (facing forward) of Mother Nature’s womb to rest in sheets and to allow their bodies to adjust to outside temperatures. We then had the change to experience a Limpia. Two spiritual leaders in the community used an egg to read different physical, emotional and spiritual states of participants. Many of the students were brought to tears after the Limpia, as such an experience can stir emotions and make oneself face his or her inner fears. The Limpia challenged me to look within and take a personal inventory of myself.

You may ask why are social work students participating in what many—especially in today’s world—would label “outdated” or “strange” healing practices? In order to meet a diversity of clients where they are, social workers must understand the importance of traditional healing customs. The best way to understand such customs—an important piece of many indigenous cultures—is to participate in them. Students can work in their future careers to integrate traditional healing methods into the medical model. For many, the western medical model alone does not suffice as a viable intervention to meet the needs of clients. As noted by Marsiglia,  & Kulis (2009), social workers, when appropriate, can collaborate and partner with native practitioners of culturally appropriate ceremonies and rituals in order to integrate them into medical treatment plans. Furthermore, as “practitioners become exposed to other cultures, their interactions, presence, and privilege become part of the cultural diversity experience” (p. 30)[1]. Students can use this experience at the Temazcal and the Limpia to promote liberation—instead of oppression—of future clients. Social work students extend a special thanks to the community that opened up their houses, cultural practices and hearts to the students studying at the Center for Global Education in Latin America.

[1] Marsiglia, Flavia Francisco & Stephen Kulis. Diversity, Oppression & Change: Culturally Grounded Social Work. (Chicago: Lyceum Books, 2009), 29.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Preparing to be on the “outside” of the Comfort Zone

By: Paige Lindley
St. Catherine University

              During week five there was a lot of preparation for the up and coming rural home stay in Amatlan. Earlier in the program we had visited Amatlan for a day, and thus began our knowledge of this community and town, but truly had not yet had the opportunity to truly expose ourselves to more of the rural lifestyle and form bonds and attachments to those in the community. We met and discussed our hopes and fears for the home stay as well as the different cultural norms which we should try to embrace and follow as a sign of respect while in the rural community of Amatlan. The students shared many commonalities in our hopes and fears but also had differences. Due to the fact that we are all people from different walks of lives, different states and communities and have different relationships with nature and more rural lifestyles, there were varying levels of fears and excitement due to this factor. Many showed excitement to be able to do more in the outdoors, others were afraid to be out of touch with their technological sides and perhaps be “roughing” it a little more and leaving behind the “luxuries” or a more industrialized lifestyle. I put these in quotations because the luxuries in life are very objective and differ from person to person, and what one person may view as a necessity may be someone else’s luxury or even a useless undesired object or item.
            Everyone was hopeful to be involved with the community, to learn more about their lifestyles, and to form some bonds with their families and be using their Spanish. Another fear was the use of Spanish and the difficulty and awkwardness it could potentially create as well as the anticipation of what we would be eating.
This is a child whom I met during my visit. The ways in
which we interact and learn about the lives of others can change our
lives and stepping outside of one's comfort zone is important in order
to be better social workers, human beings, as well as become more
culturally competent.

Throughout our classes, we discussed micro aggressions, and the ways in which racism can occur under the radar, without even being aware ourselves. This topic is particularly interesting because it stresses us to be aware and conscious of our own prejudices which we do not always like to admit that we have, although we all possess them. As social workers it is important to be aware of these prejudices so that we do not conduct ourselves with micro-aggressions or in a prejudiced way. 

We must always be challenging our thought patterns and the ways in which we view the world and analyzing the reasons which we may feel such a way. This will help us be able to see from other people’s perspectives as well. These topics were important to address before our home stay because it helped us to be more aware of our thoughts and perspectives before going to our rural homestay, and allowed us to reflect on how those changed once we returned. It also helped us to be more “culturally competent” and conduct ourselves in a respectful manner while we were in the town, visiting different sites and living with families within the community.
            I personally didn’t have many fears before the rural home stay due to the fact that I am comfortable in this environment. Something that normally helps me feel more comforted when I am feeling stressed or anxious is keep in mind that the experience of being abroad and all of its components, is something that happens once in a lifetime. Rather than thinking about what one doesn’t have, focusing on what it is that one does have is a much healthier way to live. Time passes faster than one can imagine and is ungraspable, take advantage of each moment of breath, and be happy for the air that is borrowed. Give back to the earth appreciation, love, and life; what it gives to you.

So with this experience I began to think what are the necessities in your life? How does one remain respectful and competent in a culture foreign to one’s own as well as embrace their fears in order to experience the richness of learning from other people’s experiences and culture?

Beauty and necessity are objective. This is a plant in which my host mom uses to treat congestion and headaches. The importance of exposure to other cultures and perspectives is so
incredible important and such an enriching experience which can change
your perspectives and outlooks forever. The importance of the
environment and the ways in which people use the resources around them
is very evident , and the way in which they savored and know
about each plant and its potential uses astounded me and was a piece
of their culture I feel needs to be more important to everyone around
the world.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Quintessential Experiential Learning Event: Visit to Tlamacazapa

By: Lisa Rawlins
St. Olaf

I doubt that anyone in the social work group would disagree that our visit to Tlamacazapa was the most memorable part of the week. Tlamacazapa is an indigenous (Nahuat) village in the northern part of the state of Guerrero known for its palm weaving. The name Tlamacazapa, which means “people of fear,” reflects the town’s history. During the Spanish conquest of the nearby city of Taxco in the 16th century, the residing indigenous people were forced to flee, seeking refuge in what is today Tlamacazapa. Unfortunately, as we learned during out visit to the headquarters of Atzín (a community development organization that works with the people of Tlamacazapa) on Tuesday, today Tlamacazapa is plagued by numerous problems, including the high levels of arsenic and lead in the well water. The water contamination, along with the lack of food, results in widespread health problems in the community.

Student learning how to weave a canasta (basket)
On either Friday or Saturday, the social work students visited Tlamacazapa to learn more about Atzín’s work and to interact with community members. Our experiences in Tlamacazapa were simultaneously full of joy, hope, empathy, and sadness. In small groups, we learned how to fetch water from the well and tote it on our backs, climbing up steep, rocky hills in scorching heat. I am amazed that the women of Tlamacazapa do this four times a day. In addition to gathering water, at our hosts’ homes, we learned how to make tortillas by hand and also learned how to make small “canastas” (baskets) using the Tlamacazapan palm-weaving technique. Later on, we had the opportunity to meet some of the women in the quilting income-generating project. The women beamed with pride as they eagerly explained their artwork to us. Anita later commented that in the past, the women in Tlamacazapa have been much more modest and shy. She interprets their newfound confidence and sociability as a sign of empowerment and increased self esteem among the women of Tlamacazapa.

During our debriefing session the following Monday, everyone agreed that in addition to being inspired by the quilters, we were inspired by the young “promotoras” (promoters) we met. The Promotoras, are young women from Tlamacazapa who volunteer to facilitate Atzín’s programs, which include the children with special needs program, the children’s nutrition program, and an outreach program for elderly community members. Most of the promotoras are several years younger than us, and yet they are doing such important work! The promotoras taught me that anyone can make a difference, regardless of age. Their example also taught me that the most effective community development occurs through the community members themselves. As social work education literature often stresses, the client is the expert of his or her life, not the social worker. The same principle applies to community development.

In spite of all we learned about the lives of Tlamacazapans and the work of Atzín, we are still left with questions. For example, one huge question we have is “What should we do with what we have learned?” As we discussed during the debriefing session, it is much more challenging to create innovative new policies than it is to simply put band-aids on problems. Hopefully by the end of semester, we will have a better idea of our own roles in promoting social justice.

Students sharing their experiences from Tlamacazapa

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Nuevo Semestre!!!! New Semester!!!

Welcome to Cuernavaca!!!!

A new semester has started for the Social Work in Latin America Context program. We have 16 new students from all over the U.S., from Colorado to New York City.

We are now into our 4th week and the whole group is doing great. Having a new group can sometimes be challenging because we are still getting to know each other. During the 2nd week, I had the opportunity of plan Lab Group, a weekly group run by faculty and/or students. In Lab Group the facilitator can choose any theme that connects to the academic work of the semester.

The theme of my lab group was “Why social work?” I wanted to know a little more about why my students chose social work. I told them to think of that one moment in their lives that made realize that social work was a right fit. This activity was not just another exercise to say “because I want to help”- they made bigger connections to their own experience and personal lives.

The students each had and experience that allowed them to access help whether from an agency or even a social worker. They wrote down their experience on a card and then were able to share their story with the group, of course only if they felt comfortable. They all amazed me at how comfortable they felt in sharing because we had known each other for so little time. They were all respectful and supportive of everyone’s experience. After sharing they were able to take their card and post it on a bulletin board. Then they connected their cards together to each others. Finally, they created a web consisting of the moments that brought them to Social Work and consequently, here to Cuernavaca and CGE.

Tying the string together gave it greater significance to the fact that for the next couple months we will be bound to one another. We will share many memories together and there will be times that we all will feel lost but in taking one look at our web will remind us why we are here. We are working together to understand not only ourselves but those who we will serve in the future. We are there to walk together and to have respect for ourselves and those around us.

I would like to end by sharing a quote that I find personally motivating and helps me to be both inspired and critical of my own work: "If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time; but if you are here because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together." -Lilla Watson

"Why Social Work?" Students Web

-Alendi Vidal

Center for Global Education- Mexico

International Resident Advisor and Intern

Gettysburg College‘10