Professional & cultural exchange program for social workers and youth workers
Council of International Fellowship-United States of America
My Experience in The Netherlands
While many people spent Thanksgiving with family and friends, eating turkey, watching football and kicking off the holidays with Black Friday shopping, I immersed myself on a meaningful adventure across the world and joined the numbers of the talented CIF Alumni as I completed my first CIF Fellowship.
I spent the first half of the fellowship living with the other participants in shared apartments. Social workers from Estonia (3), Finland, Israel, and Turkey accompanied me. During the second half of the fellowship, each participant lived with a local host family. My host family was diverse and multicultural, just like many US families. My host mom is originally from Ghana, and is a social worker as well. The host dad is Dutch. They had a beautiful blended family that I was able to meet and live amongst, sharing food, customs, culture, and more.
Some highlights were the experiential opportunities. These included eating at a restaurant that is a social experiment: a restaurant for the deaf, where consumers order in sign language with the help of pictures and information cards at each table. I was also able to talk to the consumers and staff at a homeless shelter, where the homeless are the decision makers and run the shelter day to day. The model has shown great success at habilitating those in need.
Home visits to two individuals that have an addiction and mental health needs, which included listening to their stories, was an amazing opportunity. This opportunity helped reinforce the importance of relationship building with those we care for when we want to make a meaningful impact on their lives.
Among museum tours and other site visits, the Red Light District walking tour was also one that was meaningful and informative. Learning about the history of this known area-- and getting a better understanding for the city and country’s ongoing battle for health, safety, and free rights--was impressive.
Fellowships like these are empowering. I wrote a blog while I was gone, chronicling this adventure, capturing moments of time and space in black and white. I also forged friendships and professional work relationships that have continued after returning home. I continue to have frequent dialogue with Jamal from the homeless shelter, The Amsterdam Domestic Violence Shelter wants to continue to learn from our models, and the Amsterdam Medical Center offers other potential opportunities to continue sharing ideas and exchanges.
I would be eager to talk to you about international opportunities and my passion for macro-level social work. I came back “on fire” to encourage others to partake in fellowships like this one. I am now a business owner of Empower International, LLC. Radical changes lead way for opportunity and growth. As a consultant providing program development and enrichment in my local home of Phoenix, I am also developing plans to welcome international social workers to my home area through a fellowship. I am taking my first adjunct faculty job teaching Intro to Social Work at a community college. I actively promote CIF to my large network of students and other professionals in the Phoenix metro area.
I am also the proud mom of four children ages 8, 6, 5, and 2, who also have a multicultural family (American-Argentinian)! I believe in teaching them the importance of taking care of other people, and immersing ourselves in our global community.
I want to live in community with others and welcome your outreach and ideas for seeking grants as I develop a Phoenix-based fellowship for CIF.