Social work students mark milestone

Six employees from the Department of Children and Family Services recently celebrated an historical moment by completing the Principles and Practices of Social Work course.

The graduates are Community Development Officers Delmira Kirchman-Bodden and Zemrie Thompson; Senior Social Work Assistant Barbara Gee; Office Attendant Tessa Nixon; Social Work Assistant Trainee Judith Rankine; and Social Work Assistant Alice Andrews.

The four-month course was coordinated by the department and the University of the West Indies’ School of Continuing Studies, said a GIS press release.

The graduates’ friends and families, along with officials from the department, the university, and the Ministry of Health and Human Services, applauded the achievements with a graduation ceremony last month.

Debbie-Ann Whittaker, DCFS Training Officer, explained that this was the first time UWI has held the course outside of Jamaica.

‘This historical moment shows how dedicated the Cayman Islands Government is to training its employees,’ she said in the release.

The students were granted four months leave from their regular jobs in order to attend full-time classes in Grand Cayman. Material covered during the course included public speaking, communication skills, report writing, disaster management, parenting, and HIV/AIDS issues.

They also completed a three-week field placement in Kingston with the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, where course participant Ms Rankine said they were welcomed by 42 of their counterparts.

‘We are all agents of change,’ she told her colleagues during the student address. ‘Together, with the new knowledge we’ve acquired, we hope to empower the vulnerable and powerless to make changes in their own lives.’

The ministry’s Chief Officer Diane Montoya, who delivered remarks on behalf of Health Minister Anthony Eden, agreed. She applauded the students for their hard work and dedication. ‘Now you are all in a better position to advocate on behalf of your clients,’ she said.

Director of Children and Family Services Deanna Look Loy also commented on the marked changes in the employees. ‘It’s evident to me the challenge has paid off well,’ she remarked. ‘You’re more confident, knowledgeable and able . . . I’m positive Cayman will reap benefits from this course.’

In his message, Lincoln Williams from UWI’s Social Work Training Centre acknowledged that social work is an underpaid and undervalued occupation. ‘This is a very demanding profession,’ he told the graduates. But from his time spent as their lecturer, he also said he learned that material gain is not the top motivator for the six students.

‘All of you are differently inspired, and I think society is much better off for your contribution,’ he said.