In this blog participants tell about their experience in the exchange programms.

Een Nederlandse deelnemer in Nieuw Zeeland (Hetty Nijmeijer, 2018)

De eerste volle week zit erop. Begonnen met lessen op de universiteit over social work en wat geschiedenis gezien de koloniale overheersing van Groot Brittannië. Verschillende organisaties bezocht zoals het ministerie voor kwetsbare kinderen Oranga Tamariki. Veel zaken worden in zowel Engels als Maori aangegeven. Voor veel Nieuw Zeelanders is de treaty die door de Engelsen gesloten is met de Maori een groot goed. De treaty had weliswaar twee mogelijke interpretaties en zorgde voor verdeeldheid, tegenwoordig is in de wet opgenomen dat de rechten van Maori gerespecteerd moeten worden. Tijdens bezoeken aan organisaties wordt er dan ook vaak naar verwezen. Zo is het voor Maori mogelijk naar een Maori rechter te stappen. In zorg zijn er meestal Maorimedewerkers die Maoricliënten kunnen begeleiden. Maori werden lang als tweederangs burgers beschouwd. In de ’60 was er zelfs nog een zekere apartheid. In de bioscoop bijvoorbeeld zaten Maori boven, de Europeanen beneden. Tegenwoordig bestaat de Nieuw Zeelandse populatie uit een mix van diverse immigrantengroepen. Ik mis een nationale gezamenlijke cultuur. Ik heb het idee dat er veel verzuiling is.
Elke dag ontmoet ik wel ergens Nederlanders, sommigen zijn hier al 45 jaar anderen net 2 jaar. Niemand wil terug naar Nederland. Met name omdat het in Nieuw Zeeland zo gemoedelijk toe gaat. En dat is zeker ook mijn ervaring. Het is rustig, easy going. Zelfs in Auckland, toch een stad van 1.5 miljoen inwoners, is er niet het gevoel van een grote drukke stad, niet de gehaastheid.
Waar de Nederlanders wel tegen aan lopen, is dat ze wat terug in de tijd zijn. Veel zaken op sociaal gebied zijn nog niet ontwikkeld, bijvoorbeeld zorgboerderijen zijn hier nog onbekend.

Inmiddels ben ik bijna in New Plymouth gearriveerd waar het tweede deel van het programma plaats zal vinden. Ben benieuwd!


A Duth participant in Japan (Conny van der Aalsvoort, 2017)

We are more alike than we thought.

Since Friday the 6th of october I am staying in Kyoto, Japan, on an CIF Exchange and I would like to tell you about my first experiences, because I am so happy to be part of CIF Japan!
Untill now everything has been great and I am sure that the second week will feel the same.

With me are collegues from Estonia, Thailand and USA and the first night we were welcomed with a very nice dinner in a traditional Japanese restaurant. Off course the tatami mats take some getting used to, but luckilly I have many years of yogatraining so I am still quite flexibel.
The boardmembers of CIF Japan and their helpers are all very kind and we had nice conversations about all sorts of things. The next day we were invited to a center where disabled persons are helped and also work in the lunchroom. The manager is a CIF boardmember and he gave an overview of the program for the coming two weeks. Then our hosts came to pick us up and I met mrs. Nasu for the first time. Both she and her husband are not only very kind and inviting to me, but we also have very interesting conversations and discussions about different subjects. I feel very fortunate to have them as my hosts. They speak English well and are themselves broadly interested. Having traveled to Europe often and also having been hosts for foreign students for many years, they have a European feel to themselves and I don’t feel any culturele gap.

The CIF program of the first days took place at the university and we had very interesting lectures about demographic analyses and social problems in Japan. We met with students and professors and again, we have an interesting exchange of ideas and experiences every day. And these talks and exchange of ideas continue during lunch and dinner, wether with people from the university, other CIF participants or the hosts.

After the first days of lectures and seminars at the university we visit Osaka for two days on a row for our first fieldvisits.
The first day we visit an organisation that helps people with a HIV infection and a foreign background. After that an organisation that helps LGBT. The second day we visit many organisations that help homeless people and a factory where mentally disabled are working. Everything is new and interesting. We see a sight of Japan that is unknown to Europeans, but also to many Japanese.

During the weekend, CIF Japan has also thought about a cultural program: we are taken to the most famous temples of Kyoto and they have even arranged tickets for a Sumo game. Very exciting!
The second week is full of visits in Kyoto city itself: elderly homes, daycare for elderly, for children and for disabled persons. Then we visit a hospital and also witness two conferences with a group of social workers, nurses and doctors who discuss the next steps to be taken for their patiënt. One of them is a 100 year old lady, still living at home, with her daughter who takes care of her.
It is very special to us, to be able to get so close to the work and thoughts of these workers. Everyone is very open and inviting and wants to take the oppurtunity to learn from each other.

The most impressive things of all are the kindness and openess of the people of Kyoto. How did we get the idea in the Netherlands that Japanese people are strict and formal? That they work too hard and don’t relax. Maybe we are lucky because we meet many elderly people who have more time to take the oppurtunity to talk with us, but also the younger people that are active for CIF Japan know how to relax and have fun. In many ways I have experienced the Japanes not to be very different from the Europeans. Both in their free time and in their work. Also in the way the work is organised I see a lot of similarities. In a way it is dissapointing: I get less new ideas from it than I had expected. For instance: I saw no new technologies or robots! On the other hand it is comforting: maybe the way we are working as social workers is similar all over the world because of good reasons. Because these are the best ways. To check if this is true I think I should visit more CIF programs in the coming years. I am already looking forward to it!

* The people I met during a fieldvisit
* A sign ‘take care of the elderly”
* Workshop processing waste, where people with limited possibilities  work
* The four CIF participant with their certificates after having succesfully finished the Japanse CIF program


A Duth participant in Israel (Salima Senders 2017)

Where it was 2 degrees and snowy at the airport from Munich, I landed a couple of hours later in Tel Aviv in the summer: a nice breeze and about 25 degrees! CIF members Hanaa and Ruthi warmly welcomed me. Hanna brought me to the bus stop to Jerusalem. Less than an hour later, I was in Jerusalem, where Ruthi was waiting to bring me  to the hotel, where all the four participants where going to stay for the first days in Israel. Bhavne from India was already there and shortly after that came Agneta from Sweden.

Barbara from the States had unfortunately a delay and would arrive soon as possible. Dorit, the long-term CIF-friend of Agneta picked us up in the evening, to go to the Wailing Wall where it was very crowded and after that we were invited at her home for the Shabbat meal, together with her husband and mother. Celebrating the Shabbat was special for all three of us, never having this experience before.

The next morning we were picked up for a tour through the old city of Jerusalem. We have seen the wailing wall again, which we could see more nearby, the Armenian Quarter, some  churches and the Arabic Souk. It was so special to all of us. Again in the hotel we could have a little rest and than the Welcome party started in our hotel.

It was so nice how everybody welcomed us, Edna, the chair person of CIF Israel, made a speech and after that we had a meal together with delicious dishes everybody had made. We,the participants, did our presentations.  And then, whes the first meeting was almost finished, Barbara arrived at the hotel too. So now we where complete, the other members said goodbye and we went to sleep.

On Sunday we had at 10:00 an orientation meeting at the Welfare Ministry, where we met the director of the department for International Relations at the Ministry of Social Affairs and  Social Services. We told about our work experiences and she gave a presentation of her work and about special issues with minorities. It was interesting to hear about, how ´young´ Israel is as a nation. After this meeting we went to the oriental market and had lunch in a typical Israelian restaurant. In the afternoon we went to a workshop in a wonderful green garden together with the partners from a peace-project. We had a lively discussion all together and in the evening we went to Tel Aviv for the Memorial Ceremony. However, it was not possible to get in, when we arrived, because it was to crowded. We waited for a while, trying to find a way, but than we returned to Jerusalem again.

These are some of my impressions during the first days of my CIF program in Israel.


A German participant in the Netherlands (Veronica Weidel 2016)

I am a social worker from Germany who works in Children’s Services. A fellow colleague told me about the CIF exchange programme. Due to the fact that I lived and worked as a social worker in England for many years, I became interested in the CIF programme.  I only knew the Netherlands from family holidays about 20 years ago. It was time for me to go back. This time I wanted to know what the social work system is like in the Netherlands. On the first day I met my fellow participants Emel from Turkey and Vagia from Greece. We stayed in a holiday apartment in Amsterdam where we were welcomed by the CIF members from the Netherlands.

The programme was divided into two parts. The first week our programme took part at the university. We met up with other social work students and had lectures which focused on the Dutch social work system and outreached working. At the university we had to do our own presentation about the social work system in our country. We also talked to the students about our work. The students organised visits to different organisations and agencies which offered outreached work to the people of Amsterdam. I liked the neighbourhood centres, e.g. we visited a centre which offers support for people with mental health problems to integrate them in the community. People  are encouraged to give ideas what the centre should offer. In this case the centre provided computers so that people can write application for jobs. When people started to have technical problems they developed a “repair shop” for laptops. We also went to homeless shelters and a newspaper which is sold by homeless people.  At the end of the first week we met with the students and their teachers for a meal in a community centre.

In the second week we left our apartment to live with our host families. Emel went to a host family in Nijmegen while Vagia and I each went to stay in our own host family in Amsterdam. My host was a Dutch woman called Ineke. I enjoyed staying with her. We went to the Amsterdam Museum where I learned a lot about  the history of Amsterdam. Ineke took me to Marken, a small village near Amsterdam, to show me the beautiful countryside of the Netherlands. Unfortunately it started to rain and it was very windy. There was a nice café where we enjoyed delicious Dutch pancakes and hot chocolate.

My programme during the second week was focused on the work I do in Germany. I visited agencies to do child and family work to prevent that child is going into care. I visited a Domestic Violence Unit which takes all the referrals regarding child and adult protection. Depending on the outcome of the assessment they referred it further to other agencies which support families, or to the Child Protection Council which can asked the Court to remove the child.

During the programme I realised the social work systems in Germany and the Netherlands are similar in terms of child protection. There are some differences in how services are run. In Germany Children’s Services has the responsibility in safeguarding children as well as offering support and coordinating support packages. In the past couple of years the central government in the Netherlands gave the responsibility to local government to provide services for people in need. This means that there are agencies who offer different support packages. It also creates uncertainties because the agencies depend on the funding from the local government.

I met Emel and Vagia again at our CIF Farewell Party in Utrecht, where we talked about our experiences. I would like to thank everyone at CIF Netherlands for organising our programme and supporting us during that time. I definitely will come back to the Netherlands.


Een Nederlandse deelneemster in Japan (Hélene Vollaard, 2015)

Cultuur is bepalend voor wat werkt

Nadat ik van een collega over de CIF programma’s had gehoord, besloot ik om me op te geven voor het programma in Japan. Japan organiseerde in 2015 voor het eerst een programma met als hoofdthema ouderenwerk. Met mij namen nog twee participanten deel, Tuija uit Finland en George uit Zweden. De participanten moesten geïnteresseerd zijn in allerlei soorten van sociaal werk. Ik werk met dak en thuislozen, verslaafden en mensen die overal vandaan komen en in Nederland hun plek nog niet hebben gevonden. Ik geef dagelijks leiding aan de maatschappelijk werkers en bepaal mede de inhoud van het programma Hulpverlening. Ik denk wel eens dat mijn team het meest multiculturele is dat er kan zijn: we spreken 16 talen en komen net als de doelgroep uit alle windstreken. Japan heeft nauwelijks buitenlandse inwoners. Het was dus moeilijk voor CIF-Japan om een programma voor me te maken, maar het is hen wel gelukt. Ik kwam terecht bij de hulpverlening aan daklozen en verslaafden. Hun problemen en ook de aanpak komen overeen met die in Nederland. Daarnaast nam ik ook deel aan het programma van mijn ‘collega’ s ’. Het was interessant en verrijkend om meer te leren over hoe men in Japan met het groeiende probleem van vergrijzing omgaat.

Het programma was goed georganiseerd en heel vol. Japanners werken hard en wij dus ook. Het bijzondere van het CIF programma vind ik het leven in een gastgezin en dat was ook mijn meest waardevolle ervaring. Hoewel het eerste gastgezin dat niet was, dat was eigenlijk een soort Bed en Breakfast. CIF-Japan handelde snel toen ik dit aan hen vertelde en verplaatste me naar een heel hartelijk gezin waar ik een geweldige tijd had, samen met Tuija die daar ook woonde. Mijn gastgezin komt in de zomer naar Nederland en ik zal hen dan weer ontmoeten.

Veel heb ik geleerd over Japan en de Japanse manier van leven. Het land is heel schoon en bijna beklemmend netjes. Het is bijvoorbeeld ‘not done’ om te eten op straat. Iedereen is uiterst vriendelijk en behulpzaam, maar de afstand tussen medewerkers en hun baas is daar veel groter dan bij ons. Dat schept wel duidelijkheid over de verhoudingen die veel groter is dan hier, waar vaak geen helderheid of zekerheid is over ieders rol.

De enige migranten in Japan zijn Filippijnen en Koreanen, vooral vrouwen die in het huishouden werken of nanny zijn: dit is ongeveer 2% van de bevolking. Het (nog) niet opnemen van mensen uit andere landen en met een andere etnische achtergrond gaat waarschijnlijk wel problemen geven, omdat Japan vergrijst en er binnenkort te weinig mensen zullen zijn om te werken en voor de ouderen te zorgen. Aan dit gegeven is veel aandacht besteed tijdens de werkbezoeken en al werd dit niet zo direct benoemd was dit voor ons Noord Europeanen snel bedacht.

De vrouw leeft nog steeds in de schaduw van de man, is als persoon minder zichtbaar en wordt minder bij dingen betrokken. Dat gebeurt heel subtiel, eigenlijk als vanzelfsprekend en werd ook door mij soms gevoeld door een verschil in de behandeling van mijn collega’s en mij.

Deze ervaring heeft me veel geleerd. Een van de belangrijke dingen is dat de aanpak van problemen niet zonder meer uitwisselbaar is, want de cultuur is bepalend voor wat werkt. Je kunt dus ‘evident based programs’ niet zo maar gebruiken in een ander land. Uiteraard heb ik ondanks het verblijf in een gastgezin, vooral de buitenkant van Japan meegemaakt. En dat was erg waardevol!