In 2006, the Government of Ghana passed the Persons with Disability Act to better include those with disabilities in the life of their communities. Over the years since then, without enough professionally-trained social workers, the legislation has failed to advance the inclusion of persons with disabilities in many of the institutions of Ghanaian society. The need to increase and provide access to community-based health and social service programs necessary to foster their inclusion is great. In particular, Ghana needs more social workers trained to work with children, youth, and adults with physical and mental disabilities.
Dr. Michael Baffoe (on the right in the photo) and Prof. Don Fuchs (back right in photo), both at the Faculty of Social Work, University of Manitoba, spent 3 weeks as volunteers at the University of Ghana. In collaboration with local partners, they conducted seminars and workshops with faculty, students, and practitioners, met with agencies providing services for persons with disabilities – most of which were consumer-based, self-help NGOs in the field of disability – and met with government officials.
“The Academics Without Borders project enabled us to strengthen the field instruction program at University of Ghana’s Department of Social Work and to develop new innovative field placement opportunities for the students of the department.
We were continually impressed by the willingness and openness of community disability service organizations to improve and extend their capacity to serve their service users. We found the commitment by service organizations to improving the lives of persons with disabilities to be awe inspiring as often persons with disability are the poorest of the poor and most oppressed members of Ghanaian society. Many of the service providers were persons with disabilities.
It was an inspiring experience to work along with highly committed Ghanaian service providers to help increase their knowledge and build their capacity to provide programs and services.”
– Don Fuchs, AWB volunteer
Don and Michael were able to increase the capacity of the faculty members to use innovative approaches for field education practice – an important step in enhancing the training of those without formal professional social work training currently working in the field.
They succeeded in helping to restore and strengthen the Department of Social Work’s contacts with partner agencies for field education practice and establishing a positive working relationship and future collaboration with the Minister and Ministry for Gender, Children and Social Protection on work in the area of disabilities.
Michael and Don reflected that many lessons were learned on the need to bring people together for work in the area of disabilities especially the university community and civil society. They identified the potential and the need for building collaborative working relationships between and among NGOs that provide services to persons with disabilities through the effective use of student field placements to allow the agencies to expand their existing programs and services.
In identifying and working with the Department of Social Work on expanding its role to serve as a catalyst for change and in developing new innovative ways of responding to the needs of persons with disabilities, it is clear that the hundreds of children and adults who are clients of the disability organizations will benefit in the immediate and near future.
Michael Baffoe, PhD, Faculty of Social Work, University of Manitoba
Don Fuchs, PhD, Faculty of Social Work, University of Manitoba
Thank you to the R. Howard Webster Foundation for making this project possible.