Social work students to support villagers in Laos as part of their degree

University of the West of Scotland (UWS) BA Social Work students are going to undertake their second year placement module in Laos, South East Asia, from 8 May to 2 June 2017, making a key contribution to improving the water supplies of local villages.

The module, ‘Social Work Experience & Enquiry’, will see ten students from the University’s Paisley and Dumfries campuses working with the residents of Nasavahn and Houy Mieng villages, near the UNESCO world heritage town of Luang Prabang, Laos, to improve the quality of their water supply.

Paul Harvey, lecturer in Social Work, based in the University’s School of Media, Culture and Society is co-ordinating the visit. He said: “Laos is one of the world’s poorest countries with a rich cultural heritage. The villagers of Nasavahn and Houy Mieng, through our partners at VoluntourLaos, requested our support to which we are delighted to respond. Clean safe water saves lives.”

Social workers play a crucial role in improving people’s lives and the University’s Scottish Social Services Council approved BA Social Work degree, designed in collaboration with employers and service users, provides students with the knowledge and expertise to qualify as a social worker.

Practical education is integral to the degree and this placement will provide those students involved with a unique opportunity to add an international dimension to their practice learning.

Paul, who has previously worked in rural South East Asia, added: “Social Work aims to improve the positive capacities of individuals, families, groups and communities with an emphasis upon social justice.  We will be living with the villagers in basic facilities. Our students have been studying the local language, customs and social and economic conditions as part of their pre-placement work and we have been fund raising and collecting educational equipment to use in Laos.

“By undertaking this international placement we are facilitating our student’s experiential education as global citizens and making some practical positive improvements to people’s lives. We are further developing the capacity of the UWS professional Social Work programme and the School of Media, Culture and Society in not only interpreting the world, but in also making some positive changes.”         

Linzi Murdoch, 21, who lives in Neilston and studies BA Social Work at the University’s Paisley Campus, said: “This will be a truly remarkable experience that will make me a better social worker. It is great to know that our placement will have such a positive, lasting impact on the lives of the villagers.”

Michelle Burton, 23, who lives in Kirkcudbright and studies at the University’s Dumfries Campus, said: “This placement is a fantastic opportunity and is a hugely important developmental opportunity for us all. We all can’t wait to get to Laos to make an important contribution to the lives of the local villagers in Nasavahn and Houy Mieng.”