Faculty members, alumni and students from UIC’s Social Work and Social Administration (SWSA) Programme came together to provide support and services for personnel who were at the frontline of the COVID-19 epidemic.

As early as 22 January, SWSA Professor and Chief Student Affairs Officer, Prof Johnston Hong-Chung Wong, proposed that social workers take actions in a WeChat article of the Social Workers Across Borders account.

Zhou Tian, a 2011 SWSA graduate, joined the online volunteer service project and became one of the key members on 23 January. The project provides medical consultation, psychological counselling and care services for patients and their families in Wuhan and surrounding homes.

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SWSA teachers, students and alumni offer Critical Incident Stress Management Courses

Training and sharing to “arm” frontline personnel

In the face of this epidemic, crisis intervention knowledge is particularly valuable for volunteers. Prof Johnston Wong, Zhou Tian, and Li Na from Social Workers Across Borders conducted a crisis intervention online training programmes for volunteers.

As a senior social worker, Zhou Tian joined her university professor Prof Johnston Wong, younger SWSA student Hu Wenhao and other professional volunteers and supervision teams to organise crisis intervention training, psychological counselling and emotional support for First Responders, including social workers, psychological consultants, and medical professionals.

In order to spread the knowledge of crisis intervention to a wider range of frontline workers, Prof Johnston Wong, Zhou Tian, and Li Na, began to prepare for the recording of public classes at the invitation of the China Social Work Education Association.

After five days of working day and night, they recorded a duration of about 300 minutes and a total of 8 sessions of Crisis Intervention Practice Course, which was released on 8 February in the ‘Social Work Teaching and Research’ WeChat account. As of 17 February, there have been more than 3,000 people studying the recordings.

In addition, Associate Professor and Programme Director of SWSA, Dr Chan Kam Tong; Prof Johnston Wong; and Assistant Professor Dr Charles Tong Lit Leung; gave public lectures on social work and services for epidemic prevention.

Teachers and students give help to helpers

With the development of the epidemic, many frontline volunteers work around the clock while continuously receiving negative news, which results in a lot of psychological pressure. Some people have feelings of helplessness, anxiety, depression, loss, irritability, sadness, etc.

It was on 7 February when Prof Johnston Wong began to recruit volunteers on the SWSA alumni WeChat group. The alumni responded positively and soon established an SWSA alumni anti-epidemic online support team, which had more than 30 people to provide frontline volunteers with supervision and group counselling services. Zhou Tian shouldered the task of training the alumni.

Zhou Tian’s WeChat has 30 anti-epidemic social workers and volunteer groups. From volunteer training, manpower coordination, case supervision, to experience sharing, she works almost late every night.

“If something terrible happens, such as unfortunate death of a patient, sadness will spread in the group, and the frontline social workers will immediately step in to provide emotional counselling, but this could also make the social workers upset. We try to empower our first-line social workers by listening to them and help them adjust,” Zhou Tian said.

Together with the frontline medical staff and volunteers, the social workers played their part in this virus battle to dispel the haze and let the sunshine back into people’s hearts.

Reporter: Lauren Richardson
Editors: Samuel Burgess, Deen He
(from MPRO)