Erika Altrogge stands at a seawall in Ballygally in Northern Ireland.
Twenty years after the “Troubles” ended in Ireland, walls separating neighbourhoods and gates around local churches still remain. And it’s within this context that 16 students in MacEwan University’s Bachelor of Child and Youth Care program journeyed through the country (and parts of Scotland as well) to get an idea of how Ireland’s history impacts children and families, as well as the social care system that supports them.
“The lengths to which our program will go to immerse a student in learning is evident in this course,” says Erika Altrogge, who took part in CYCW 303: Advanced Child and Youth Care Practice II: Relational-Centred Case Planning. She says faculty members worked to create meaningful visits with relevant institutions, including Athlone Institute of Technology, which offers a similar program, and the Kibble Group, a social care agency that is older than Canada’s confederation.
In our “Where in the World” series, students and faculty members share highlights from this year’s study tours, exchanges, internships and field schools. Talk to a faculty advisor or visit MacEwan.ca/EducationAbroad for opportunities.
The experience opened the students’ eyes to changes in the youth care structure in Canada that their own generation of youth workers could implement.
“They created an environment where we could explore the facets of meaningful change by entertaining new perspectives through history, culture, and art: visiting murals that tell the stories of war-criminals turned patriots, working to place youth amidst a housing crisis, stopping and listening to the hundreds of buskers along a busy street tell their stories,” says Erika. “These are only a few of the things that we had the opportunity to experience on this tour. It was life changing.”
Associate Professor Catherine Hedlin says this study tour is important because it demonstrates how families are impacted by history. In Canada, Indigenous families are affected by the ongoing trauma caused by residential schools, the Sixties Scoop and European colonialism; in Ireland, the impact is from decades of occupation, violent protests and political unrest. The experience gives students a better understanding of what it means to work in child and youth care in different contexts.
“We want students to get that sense that parts of the work we do — how we do it, the relationships we build, the developmental theory — all of that is the same, but it is always informed by context,” says Catherine. “And you don't understand context if you don't understand history.”
Photos by Erika Altrogge.