Cultural Nuances in International Social Work Practice

 Cultural Nuances in International Social Work Practice

COVID-19 surprised the world because of its unique etiology and its impact on global society. Self-introspection took me to my country of origin—the Philippines, a distant archipelago of 7,641 islands. How could social workers in the Philippines effectively provide services during this pandemic when, according to the Asian Development Bank, more than 16% of the population lives in poverty?

Under these harsh conditions, social workers lucky enough to retain employment were faced with a new reality—figuring out how to manage their caseloads or lack of work under COVID-19 while also sustaining their health and the needs of their families. Acknowledging and handling emotions and fatigue and the need for self-care in this pandemic is a major ethical challenge facing social workers across the world, based on data from a recent study by the International Federation of Social Workers. In response to the situation in the Philippines, I delivered a live-streamed webinar on self-care for Filipino social workers and other mental health practitioners who are providing services to those affected by this pandemic. The webinar, Surviving While Serving the COVID 19 Pandemic: Addressing the Mental Health Needs of Social Workers and Mental Health Practitioners in the Philippines, unpacked several methods and interventions that address mental health and self-care needs in the unique context of Filipino culture. Sponsored by the Philippine Association of Social Workers, it was viewed by more than 3,500 practitioners across the islands. This Educator|Resource presents an abridged version of the original 2-hour webinar.

Teaching Resources

In the context of international social work practice, this Educator|Resource explores what the approaches to self-care reveal about Filipino culture. Although using standard self‐care skills, the approaches are interpreted through a Filipino cultural lens situated in the unique social context of the country. Self-care skills are chosen that align with Filipino culture. Participants are encouraged to draw on their cultural philosophies—a mantra, a proverb, a belief, a code, or a prayer to cling to. Indigenous languages are interspersed, providing a source of validation for participants.

In addition to the webinar, several teaching resources offer background materials.