Loyalist International Support Worker Students Prepare to Make a Difference
By: Marilyn Warren
The Loyalist College post-graduate International Support Worker (ISW) program is forging a unique path among post-secondary options. The one-year certificate program attracts students from around the world with degrees, diplomas and backgrounds that range from social work and carpentry to international development and journalism. They are drawn to the philosophy that drives the program – a focus on respect and support for the wishes of those they are working with.
“Loyalist’s program explores humanitarian aid and social justice, and looks at human rights – a completely different approach from other programs which use a management, finance and business platform,” explained Professor Kate Rogers, the program Coordinator. “We believe that it’s important to truly understand the context of a culture and the language, and to ask the communities we are working with what they want to happen and how we can support them to that end. Loyalist students learn to understand global social issues and development strategies with the objective of helping communities implement the changes they want.”
2011 ISW graduate Michelle Newlands pursued the program after completing the Loyalist Print Journalism diploma program and a post-graduate E-Journalism certificate.
“Being part of the ISW program was much more than working toward a certificate,” said Michelle. “It allowed me to join a community of like-minded people looking to expand their skills, knowledge, experience and passion to an international level. It provided me with a safe, productive and supportive learning environment. In addition to the hard skills I gained, the program introduced me to a network of organizations and professionals within the field who offer valuable insight into the reality of situations on the ground. It was through these connections that I arranged an placement with a media and human rights organization, Journalists for Human Rights, which sent me to Ghana to work at a university. While there, I met representatives from the non-profit organization Operation Groundswell (OG) and was offered my current job. I love it.”
Michelle is responsible for communications and outreach at the OG head office in Toronto and coordinates their West Africa Discovery program. “I work with people who have completed our overseas programs to develop local initiatives, discussion groups and projects based on the concept of ‘backpacktivism’ – an ethical approach to travel in a unique and respectful way, at home and abroad. I’m also responsible for our six-week Discovery programs in West Africa, which focus on safe travel, volunteering, cultural immersion and experiential education. Enrolling in the post-graduate ISW program was one of the best decisions I have ever made.”
In addition to the class completing an placement in Mexico, students in the ISW program are encouraged to participate in a second placement anywhere in the world. These practical experiences, in combination with in-class studies, prepare them to enter the field with hands-on training including essential safety skills.
“When I entered the program, I wanted to gain a better understanding of the role that individuals play within an international context and learn about how people can contribute to our global community,” said Michelle. “The ISW program did exactly that and provided me with a structured plan to turn new knowledge and information into action and employment.”
For more information about the post-graduate International Support Worker program and the rewarding careers it leads to, please contact Professor Kate Rogers at firstname.lastname@example.org.