Global Field Ed Alumna Pursues Work in Cambodia

Neidorf (fourth from left) with colleagues at Hagar Cambodia, including fellow BCSSW alumna Kaitlin Porter (second from left).

Neidorf (fourth from left) with colleagues at Hagar Cambodia, including fellow BCSSW alumna Kaitlin Porter (second from left).

Kate Neidorf, MSW ’15, learned so much during her global field education placement at Hagar Cambodia that she decided to extend her stay there for at least twelve months following graduation. In this Q&A with BC Social Work, the recent alumna discusses why a Global Practice degree was perfect for her, how BCSSW has prepared her for the future, and why her time in Hagar has provided her with exactly the kind of experience she’ll need for a career in international service. 

Why did you decide to pursue a global field ed placement at BCSSW?

KN: I was looking for a dual degree in International Relations, and the Global Practice program felt like a good fit.  I have lived in London for six months and in the Balkans for two and a half years when I was in the Peace Corps Macedonia, but the global placement at BCSSW gave me the opportunity to specifically work with an anti-trafficking NGO, and my professional interest is to work in this field of service.

While applying for jobs prior to getting my master’s, organizations wanted me to already have experience specifically working for an NGO that served this population. Despite having a lot of experience with victims and survivors of trafficking through my work at schools and other service organizations, it didn’t have the same weight as working at an organization specifically designed to address this issue. I found that I also needed an MSW to be more employable, and BCSSW offered the kind of program that I knew I could flourish in.

Why was an agency in Cambodia selected for your placement?

KN: I was interested more in the organization Hagar than in the location because of the work they are doing with human trafficking.  Ironically, I had thought about moving to Cambodia when I was leaving Macedonia but I had to go home for family reasons. When looking for a placement, Hagar was the only organization that BC worked with that had a clinical placement that dealt with trafficking.

I have never lived in South East Asia, and the closest I had been was a former work trip to India. A placement in the Balkans would have made sense because I speak the language, but I thought that it might be more of an educational experience if I went somewhere really new and different. I am especially glad this placement was offered to me, as I now have a job here.

Tell us more about the agency you work with. 

KN: Hagar Cambodia is an organization that provides recovery services to victims of human rights violations in Cambodia.  The clients are adults and children who have experienced sexual assault, human trafficking, or domestic violence.  The services provided include: case management, counseling, economic empowerment (job training skills, job placement), and education (a catch-up school).  The services are focused on reintegrating clients back into the community (or keeping them in the community in the first place).  Although Hagar has a women’s and girls’ shelter, we try to keep clients in the community with kinship care, families of origin, or foster care.  Similarly to how we strive to avoid placing children in shelters in the U.S., the international community is beginning to move away from that model.

And what exactly were your responsibilities during your field ed placement? 

KN: My internship was a placement under the Programs Manager for Case Management. I conducted trainings for the case managers and provided drama therapy to a small group of clients with the counseling team.  I also assisted with our annual reports and agency grant funding. Over the six months of my internship, my day-to-day was often pretty different: some days I visited clients out in the provinces with the case managers, and other days I helped to clean data and calibrate measurement tools.

Your field ed experience was especially rewarding – when your placement ended, your work at Hagar continued. Tell us about your future plans.

KN: I graduated from BCSSW in May, and as graduation approached, I began to apply for jobs both in Cambodia and in the U.S. I’ve signed on for a twelve-month contract at my organization and I am now the Psychosocial Operations Manager here. I currently oversee the counseling, case management, and capacity building teams, as well as a satellite office in the northwest of the country. This involves providing psychosocial support to the teams that provide direct services to clients as well as help with report writing, data tracking, and evaluation.

What have been your greatest accomplishments in Cambodia?  

KN: I have approached my time in Cambodia up until this point as a learning experience.  Although it is important to me that I contribute to Hagar, I also am aware that I am here for a very short time. My major accomplishments have been both how I’ve been able to share my skills and knowledge with the staff, while also learning from them.

The staff is very receptive of me because I work hard to interact with everyone, I ask questions, and I do everything I can to learn about the local culture.  The team has expressed that they appreciate this approach – in the past, they’ve worked with other international volunteers who didn’t seem to engage as much with the local community.  To me, their positive feedback marks a great accomplishment. That the staff understands that I value this as a learning experience and respect their knowledge and perspective means a lot to me.

What does it mean to be able to pursue a global field ed opportunity as a social worker in 2015?

KN: The global field placement is an opportunity to see how what we’ve learned through our course work is put into practice in the international community. Although I had international experience prior to this program, it was not through the lens of social work per se, and therefore it was a very different experience. At Hagar I am able to put the lessons I’ve learned into practice, while observing how agencies outside of our country are conducting their work. Eventually, I plan to work and live in the U.S., but as trafficking is very much a global issue, my time at Hagar is providing me with a critical well-rounded perspective for when I return to the States.

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