From its beginning, social work has been committed to the defense and promotion of human rights by working against the cruel acts of discrimination for social justice. Among the most vulnerable individuals and groups worldwide are those that have been displaced or forced to migrate within their own countries. Becoming an increasing international crisis as the result of armed conflicts, violence, ethnic fights, natural disasters, and mass violation of human rights, the International Federation of Social Workers indicates that there are currently more than 25 million people displaced on every continent of the globe. For qualified social workers interested in providing assistance to these people who have been marginalized within their own society and are facing the emotional trauma of their uprooting experience, the following are some of the leading professional social work opportunities available for helping displaced populations.
United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR)
Operating in more than 125 countries around the world from the major capitals to the remote locations of the Pacific, Africa, Europe, Middle East, and the Americas, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) hires social workers as field staff to directly help the most vulnerable victims of displacement. With the mission of helping individuals restart their lives and resettle in safe refuge in another state, the UNHCR leads and coordinates international action to protect refugees and provide solutions to refugee problems around the globe. Home to a growing staff of more than 7,600 people helping tens of millions of people, the agency is consistently seeking committed social workers to provide assistance to refugees for their humanitarian needs after facing such dire political obstacles.
World Health Organization (WHO)
The World Health Organization (WHO) focuses on directing and coordinating program initiatives on global health matters. Among the organization’s strongest priorities is the unique mental health needs of refugees and the most vulnerable displaced populations in today’s world. Given the magnitude of the problem and lack of resources, it is estimated that more than 50 percent of refugees present mental health problems or psychological dysfunctioning ranging from chronic mental disorders to trauma and distress as a result of the great cognitive, emotional, and socioeconomic burden. Therefore, among the many other things that social workers do, the organization employs social workers to lead international careers at addressing the mental health needs of these displaced individuals through community-based psycho-social care.
International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has dedicated a sector of its organized efforts to providing assistance to those who have been displaced due to a violation of human rights. Along with facilitating the supply of relief materials such as food, blankets, medicines, and tents to those truly in need, the ICRC plays a crucial role in preventing displacement in the first place to protect civilians from these cruel crimes against humanity. As a result, the ICRC recruits social worker staff, trains them, and develops their skills to become qualified personnel to support its international operations.
While these are three of the largest non-profit humanitarian organizations, there are countless other agencies of varying sizes from every corner of the globe that often provide professional opportunities for social workers to help vulnerable displaced populations. For more information about how you can get involved in an international career truly making the difference in these traumatized lives, the Katherine A. Kendall Institute for International Social Work Education of the CSWE provides a compiled list of organizations for jobs, internships, and volunteer opportunities for assisting refugees.