7 November 2019
From 4-7 November 2019, Olive Tree Estates (OTE) and the University of Labour and Social Affairs 2 (ULSA2) co-organized Social Work Training sessions for both the lecturers in ULSA2, as well as senior social workers, counsellors and lecturers in Vietnam. This is one of the objectives laid out in the Memorandum of Understanding and strategic partnership arrangement between ULSA2 and OTE. The trainings were conducted by 2 members of OTE’s Advisory Board for Social Impact and Senior Social Work Veterans in Singapore, namely:
- Mr John Ang, President of Fei Yue Community Services and Lecturer in the Social Work Department of the National University of Singapore (NUS)
- Mr Teo Tee Loon, Executive Director of Lakeside Family Services
The customized and dedicated training for ULSA2 lecturers was held on 4th November 2019, in the area of Social Work Curriculum Development. The remaining 3 days were for the training of senior social workers, counsellors and lecturers, specifically with respect to a strengths-based perspective to building communities (essentially how internal and external resources can be mobilized towards strengthening communities).
Training for ULSA2 Lecturers
The first day of training was conducted by Mr. Ang. The aim of the training was to provide clarity as to what the main considerations should be when deciding how to shape a university’s social work curriculum.
Mr. Ang began his session by showing the vision statements of some famous universities. What emerged was the emphasis placed on the pursuit of truth. Several universities of more recent origin have added the betterment of society as their goal. ULSA2 has couched its goals in terms of solving society’s problems. He concluded by stressing that a university education must cultivate the mind, nurture moral values and prepare students to contribute to society. Since, social work is a subject taught at the university, it must share the same objectives of its institutional base. In particular, social work education and training must embrace both grounding in relevant theory and training in the application of skills, especially relational and engagement skills. He pointed out the threefold connection of head, heart and hands adopted by Social Work Department he is affiliated to – intellectual rigour, compassion and skillful application of skills lie at the heart of social work practice.
Mr. Ang also invited the lecturers to consider what a competent social worker and what society should look like, and frame the social work curriculum towards achieving those goals. One of the lecturers shared that it was in her heart for the social work students to have a heart that cares deeply for others. She shared that students have been volunteering for community work outside ULSA2, but can do more to help staff and fellow students in ways which forge a greater sense of community within the campus, such as helping to erase a dirty blackboard before lecture, and opening the classroom door wider as the lecturer and students enter the classroom. Lecturers expressed interest in furthering discussions with regards to how to instil the ‘heart’ of social work, or character moulding, into the students’ lives.
The lecturers had internal discussions during the session, and largely agreed on 2 goals for ULSA2’s social work curriculum: to solve current and potential social issues, as well as equip students with knowledge and skills to do so. One of the lecturers shared that she gained a broader perspective from the training, and could appreciate some of the strengths of ULSA2’s social work curriculum, as well as some areas that could be further developed. She shared that it would be good if they provided students with more support towards social work research and practice, as it would help the students better apply the theories they learnt in class, as well as to take cultural context into consideration.
ULSA2 lecturers discussing about the ULSA2 Social Work Curriculum
In the second half of the session, Mr. Ang gave a breakdown of the components of a social work curriculum, including allocation of content into core and elective modules, designation of module content into reading and lesson plans, as well as how to teach and assess students better. Mr. Ang also shared his own stories and practical insights as to how students could be helped. There were further questions and discussion on the practicum section, as well as how to ensure students do their assigned readings.
This is but the first of many social work training sessions with the ULSA2 lecturers, and there will be ongoing opportunities to discuss with ULSA2 colleagues such incremental changes to the curriculum that might be advantageous, to reflect both Vietnamese characteristics and international trends in social work teaching.
Training for Senior Social Workers and Counsellors
The next 3 days, between 5th November 2019 – 7th November 2019, saw the training of senior social workers, counsellors and lecturers. Many of the participants were from various provinces, including the north and central provinces of Vietnam.
The session began with an opening ceremony. Both Dr. Pham Ngoc Thanh, Dean of ULSA2, and Mr. Daniel Long, CEO of Olive Tree Estates, gave their opening speeches. Both Dr. Pham and Mr. Long expressed their appreciation with respect to the strategic cooperation and partnership between ULSA2 and OTE, and welcomed the participants to the training.
Dr. Pham and Mr. Long delivering their opening speeches.
Day 1 of Training: Introduction to Community Development
The first day of training was conducted by Mr. Teo Tee Loon. Mr. Teo gave an introduction as to the various theories of community development, and explained that the common strand among these theories is to see and work with the communities through their strengths and resoures. More than just the theories, Mr. Teo also shared stories about how these theories were applied in Singapore, and opened up a discussion among the participants on which theories they have used in their own work, and what they could try to apply going forward.
The atmosphere was very lively. Many of the participants asked questions, and shared more about their work. One of the participants, Daisy, from Ibsen Tiny Stage, shared about how she encourages the people she works with to open up about themselves through puppet theatre, and lets the people figure out solutions for the challenges they face, with the use of some resources in the community.
Participants sharing their thoughts about the training, and asking questions.
Mr. Teo also explained the 6 types of resources that are available within the community, which are: individuals, associations, institutions, physical space, exchange and common culture, history and stories. Mr. Teo also explained the key to mobilizing these resources, which is the relationship with the key people who own the resources.
Day 2 of Training: Applications of Strengths-based Community Development Approach
On the second day, Mr. Teo shared 3 stories from Lakeside Family Service’s community development work that is based on the strengths-based approach. The communities in Singapore started out with residents living with problems in their neighbourhood, and some of them were angry and frustrated. However, as Lakeside staff catalyzed conversations between residents who were willing to do something about the problems, they saw that the residents were actively brainstorming for and discussing solutions together, and would later work together to solve the problems. The residents started to be more confident and empowered, and relationships between neighbours improved. Now, the group of residents are actively reaching out and helping their neighbours in areas such as childcare, emotional support and health needs. It was very encouraging for the participants to hear about how well communities can develop when residents believe that they and the community that they live in have the internal resources to tap on to improve the lives of those who live within the community.
One of the group discussion activities was for participants to identify their own strengths and resources, classifying them under ‘head’, ‘hands’ and ‘heart’, and seeing how they can tap on one another’s strengths for their work. The participants could see first hand the synergy and energy which could be garnered to help each other in their work, and by extension, how a community could benefit from such cooperation and intimacy.
Group discussions among the participants, as they listed down their passions and assets.
In the afternoon, Mr. Daniel Long shared about Olive Tree Estates and its strengths-based and integrated Social Impact offering, comprising affordable housing, early childhood education, primary healthcare and social services. For many participants, it was also the first time hearing about the socioeconomic and cultural context in Singapore, and critically, how the Singapore experience could offer insight as to the challenges and opportunities which a fast-urbanzing Vietnam might face in the future. They were excited to see that OTE, as a company which desires to be a positive force for good, has a heart towards community development in Vietnam, where increasing work pressures are putting a strain on the emotional health of individuals, family life and relationships within communities.
Day 3 of Training: Strengths and Resources in Family Life
The 3rd day of training was conducted by Mr. Ang and covered the applications of the strengths-based approach within the family. Mr. Ang started the session by sharing healthy expectations of family members toward one another, and the importance of taking and delegating responsibilities within the family. The purpose of the session was for the participants to get a better understanding as to some of the possible dysfunctions within the families they work with, and also tools to mobilize strengths within the family to rebuild healthy family dynamics. Mr. Ang also shared his personal insights concerning how best to manage the often complex dynamics that lie within parent-child relationships, spousal relationships, sibling relationships and in-law relationships.
In the second half of the session, Mr. Ang shared about some of the resources which family members can be encouraged to share with one another. One example is the sharing of warmth and trust through words and acts of love, which have a very meaningful effect on spousal relationships, as well as on the values that are inculcated in children as they grow up. Family members can use these strengths and resources towards fulfilling family responsibilities, and towards showing support to each other.
In the closing ceremony, Dr. Pham and Mr. Long gave their closing speeches to the participants. Afterwards, ULSA2 presented the gifts for the trainers, and the Certificates of Participation to all the participants.
Presentation of Certificates of Participation by the Trainers.
At the end of the presentation of certificates of training, there was also a gift exchange between Dr. Pham and Mr. Long, signifying the success of the first Social Work Training co-organized by both ULSA2 and OTE.
Many of the participants enjoyed the training tremendously, learning a great deal from the trainers, as well as making friends with like-minded and like-hearted people in the social services sector. Some of the participants expressed their interest to partner with OTE in the latter’s community development efforts in Vietnam, and mentioned that they are looking forward to the next training session.