University of Southern Mississippi social work students enrolled in a required field experience class gained invaluable experience following the Feb. 10 tornado that struck the Pine Belt in a disaster case management initiative facilitated by the American Red Cross.
The course is divided into two sections and taught by School of Social Work instructors Delories Williams and Nicole Werle. Students in the courses fanned out across Lamar, Forrest and Perry Counties to meet with residents impacted by the storm and assess their needs.
Jasmine Naylor, a senior social work major from Hattiesburg, was one of the students who participated in the project. In working with the Red Cross, Naylor said she met with several individuals impacted by the storm and provided them with referrals to various local resources that could make assistance available for recovery. The students also provided “comfort kits” to those who needed them, which included toothbrushes, toothpaste and other hygiene items.
Naylor said the experience introduced her to a new side of case work. “I had never thought of working with disaster relief,” she said. “It opened my eyes to see that a social worker's job can be so vast. It was a joy to be able to help people and use those skills I have learned to provide genuine care.”
Southern Miss senior social work major Rachel Bumgardner of Hattiesburg also participated, working in both Lamar and Forrest Counties. For Bumgardner, the experience helped her understand the specific and individual needs that people struggled with after the storm. "Case management is critical because it allows for proper assessment tools to be used to adequately start the rehabilitation process," she said.
School of Social Work adjunct instructor Victoria Murdy coordinated the field experience with the Red Cross and saw it as a “real world experience” that will benefit the students in their careers as social workers.
“The Red Cross was wonderful in providing this experience for our students, and in showing their thanks for having them work on the project,” Murdy said. “By seeing firsthand the devastation of the storm and its impact on the affected families, it helps them understand the value of the skills that they’re learning here in our BSW (bachelor of science in social work) program.”
The School of Social Work is housed in the university’s College of Health. To learn more about the school’s undergraduate and graduate programs and other activities, online visit http://www.usm.edu/social-work or call 601.266.4168 for the Hattiesburg campus and 228.214.3262 for Southern Miss Gulf Coast.