Dana Loatman, ’16, Reporting from Brussels, Belgium
This semester, Innovate@BCSW is following the experiences of four BC Social Work students who have embarked on international field education placements in Latin America, Europe, and Africa. Stay tuned during the spring for ongoing updates through student-crafted blog posts, video diaries, and photography.
Blog 1: The Arrival
By Dana Loatman
On January 15th, 2016 I found myself at Washington DC Dulles Airport, waving goodbye to my family yet again on a purpose driven mission. Where to this time? Belgium!
Less than 8 hours later I would arrive in Brussels with a combination of great excitement and anxiety. Stunned at the old beautiful European architecture, intrigued by the culture of international diversity in the regions capital, and nervous at the realization that I knew not an ounce of French, I found peace in the reason why I was here. There’s something about being a social worker that makes you feel like everything will be okay. I often remind myself that “its not about you, its about the people who will be impacted!”
My host family welcomed me; a couple (a lawyer and a painter/refugee art instructor) and their three-year-old baby girl, as well as Kathryn Doyle, a fellow global practice student working at Jesuit Refugee Service on European policy initiatives for refugees. Interestingly, she’s not the only BCSSW representative here in Europe’s capital, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting with two other alumni, one working at the International Business School and another at Crisis Action.
A few days after arriving, I started at World Vision International, welcomed by a team of passionate and fun people from Ireland, the Netherlands, UK, Romania, Iran, France, and Sweden. My supervisor had me jump right in, and within the first two weeks I presented to 40+ nonprofit leaders and also attended several meetings and events hosted by the European Commission, World Trade Organization, and United Nations Panels on sustainable development and economics.
While World Vision is my host organization, I have the pleasure of working as a Sustainable Development Goals Strategy and Implementation intern for a new startup alliance called the SDG Coalition; a partnership of 100+ civil society organizations (CSOs-nonprofits, foundations, think tanks) working in the environment, social policy, development, sustainability, and economic sectors. SDG Coalition’s mission is to make the 2030 UN Sustainable Development Agenda a reality by ensuring that the EU achieves all of the goals and targets and strongly supports low and middle-income countries.
My work will involve applying for 50,000 euros in startup funding, identifying strategic partnerships (public, private, and nonprofit), and developing an evaluation/mapping and analysis of EU-based nonprofit organizations and their interest in the implementation of the 17 UN goals. When I return back to DC in April, I will continue to remotely provide recommendations for the coalition, including next steps in relation to operations, policy and advocacy efforts, while also commenting on the political implications for engagement with the European Union political institutions and the United Nations.
It is here that I truly dive into the definition of “macro” social work, using a variety of skills gained at BCSSW; leadership, policy, programming, innovation, evaluation, and community organizing. I believe that CSOs’ participation in policy processes is key to ensuring inclusive and effective policies to help overcome challenges of poverty, widening inequalities, social exclusion, and unsustainable development. I’m looking forward to this experience; stay tuned for more fun things to come from Belgium!
Dana Loatman is spending the semester working for World Vision International, with a particular focus on a budding network called the Sustainable Development Goals Coalition.