Making the World Smaller Through CIF

August 23, 2018 7:00 pm by Kritzia Santos
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There comes a time in any person’s career, passion or vocation for the need to step back, to reflect a little further to become better at what they do. No matter how much experience or practice they may have, a good opportunity to grow is learning how to pause and be open to new perspective and being a student of life. The Council of International Fellows  or CIF does just this for the “giving” field. It is a program open to social workers, community development workers, psychologists, teachers etc. the main goal of CIF is to to promote international understanding and world peace through training and exchange of experience for professionals in human services.

CIF Programs

There are various CIF programs throughout the world some have from two weeks to one month courses that A.) Gives opportunities for professionals to learn through the experiences of the work in another country and the social systems that it encompasses B). Create fellowship through learning about the world and its different practices by meeting likeminded professionals from different countries. C). Having at least a week to visit similar advocacies that one is working on to have new ideas or innovations to the work they are doing back home. D). A cultural and learning experience of the country of their destination. CIF programs is existing in over 90 countries around the world. One can apply for this fellowship in the country they would want to learn from the most.

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The beauty of this experience is that you also learn about different experiences of development in other countries through the co-fellows you journey with in the program.  

Social Work in CIF

CIF Various Social Workers from different countries learning about each other’s nations and kinds of work. In our April 2018 CIF fellowship in April, I co-journeyed with colleagues from Greece, Nepal, Argentina, Madrid, Georgia, Turkey and Finland. Our various ages, kind of work in our different countries and experiences made the whole experience all the more meaningful.  

The depth of experiences of my colleagues was inspiring from one working in the youth and justice filed from the past two decades, the health sector, working with the deaf and mute, prison ministry, youth sectors, employment and foster care. It was a jam packed month filled with amazing stories that liven ones spirits and help give you that stronger push to continue to believe that our work matters no matter how small these ripples this may be.

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Here we are with a meeting with one of the government official of the city of Vienna, such an amazing, simple woman who has been in public service since she was a youth volunteer. Thank you to CIF Vienna  and for all the government, non-government agencies and foundations that have welcomed us. The CIF truly makes the world smaller.

The CIF Experience

They say, relationships is the lifeblood of social work, and in the month long experience, I was able to experience just that, from the many organizations we visited in Austria; youth centres, Foster mothers’ homes, government agencies that care for almost every need of their citizens, mental health centres, hospitals for those with special needs and so many more interesting work in Austria, it kept me excited to bring back these learnings back to my home country. I know I may not be able to live and see the day when the Philippines will be  this developed, but this experienced strengthened me and gave a further push to keep on trying.

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The experience was made more interesting because we learned side by side with social work students from the FH Campus Vienna, they joined us in these trip and arranged various excursions for us. At the end of the month, the fellows had a day to present and share all about their work back home and how each one can learn from each other and find ways to collaborate.

One of my favourite things about these programs, is sharing about my country, the Philippines. Here I am in the photo with my foster mom Ricki, helping me cook adobo For Fellowship night where I also had to dance a Filipino dance – I chose the coconut dance 

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End Notes about CIF

The best way to get to know a country is to get to know the people that live in it. We were taken cared of by foster families through out the duration of our stay in Austria. CIF volunteers that are also social workers were our foster parents. My foster parent was a psychotherapist named Ricki, who was the most adorable and caring foster mother I could ever have. They were our guides to make sure we felt at home In a foreign country, able to understand the train and transport system (Vienna’s is one of the most advanced in the world! It was so easy to get from point A to B!), and also helped us to reflect on and share about our experiences in Austria and more.

I was more than grateful to be journeying with such a wonderful group that breathes social work. It truly reminded me that “the world is ours to love”.

If you want to apply for this one of a kind experience visit the CIF page HERE and see the different countries you may learn and share all about giving.

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