Two MSW students are named Albert Schwitzer Fellows

Two Indiana University School of Social Work students are among the inaugural class of Indiana Albert Schweitzer Fellows.

Tori Campbell
 Tori Campbell

Tori Campbell, a Master of Social Work student at the IU South Bend Campus and Meredith Upchurch, a Master of Social Work student at the IUPUI campus, will join 260 other 2011-12 Schweitzer Fellows across the country in carrying out service projects that address the health needs of underserved individuals and communities. While it is the inaugural class for Indiana, the program has been in existence in the United States since 1992.

The Fellowship is a one-year interdisciplinary service-learning  program focused on leadership development and addressing health-related needs of underserved communities. The Fellowship is designed to help students use their skills and knowledge in real-life situations; become culturally sensitive and compassionate caregivers; understand the impact of poverty as a social determinant of health; work collaboratively and across disciplines in pursuit of a common goal and exercise leadership skills to work with and influence community based organizations, community leaders, and academic institutions to embrace holistic, service-oriented approaches to health. Participating students also receive a $3,000 stipend that can be used in any way they wish.

Campbell, who works full-time in the admissions office at IUSB and is taking classes part-time, saw the fellowship program as an opportunity to pick a population “that you would want to work with and design your own project.” She approached the Logan Community Resources, where she had worked as an intern, to talk to them about identifying a need they saw in the community. The Logan center works with individuals with developmental disabilities. “I wanted to design a project that would help address that need,” Campbell explained.

From those discussions, she came up with a project that will address nutritional education of the center’s clients. A lot of the center’s clients don’t know how to cook, have little understanding about what healthy food and appropriate serving sizes and how to eat in a healthy way on a limited budget. She is also looking at the possibilities of engaging the community, whether its faculty or students from the university with clients who feel they have little connection to the community. The clients she is looking at assisting will range from people who live independently to those who live in a group home.

Campbell’s plan is to document and track everything she the educational material, even recipes, can be complied in a book that the Logan center can continue to use after her year-long project is up.

Upchurch is focusing her Fellowship project on international refugees, a population that she first came in contact with during an undergraduate internship with Exodus Refugee Immigration, Inc. in Indianapolis.  In addition to attending classes, she works  full-time as the Indiana State Department of Health’s HIV Care Coordination Specialist and recently completed an employment-based practicum with the State Refugee Health Program as part of her MSW coursework.

“I learned so much from the refugees I worked with,” Upchurch said of her experience at Exodus. “They truly changed my entire perspective on life and the way I view the world.  It changed me as a person for the better.”  She recalled one of the first refugees she worked with at Exodus, a man from Burma only a year younger than herself who was resettled just a few months prior to their meeting and had spent the last 10 years in a refugee camp. “He was fortunate, most of his family was still alive and together.  So many of the other refugees I met were not that lucky.”  Upchurch noted, a lot of people have seen their homes and villages burnt to the ground and their family members and friends assaulted or even killed right in front of them, then they spend years on end in a refugee camp before being sent to a new country where they don’t know the language and they don’t understand how to navigate their way through the social systems.  “The refugees I’ve met are truly remarkable.  I admire them so much, their resiliency simply amazes me,” she added.

Meredith Upchurch
 Meredith Upchurh

Upchurch’s plan for her project is to “extend the continuum of care offered to refugees by reassessing and addressing the health-related needs of those at or near the end of the time-limited initial resettlement social and financial services provided.” She also expects the project will “promote self-sufficiency by providing client-centered assistance and education to refugees on health-related issues, accessing and navigating the U.S. health care system, extent and limitations of available services and coverage, the healthcare system’s expectations of patients, and the roles and responsibilities of individuals regarding their health and care.” In part, Upchurch plans to meet the goals of the project by acting as a liaison between refugees and  providers to get needs met and working to provide translated written information about relevant services.”

In explaining why she wanted to take on this effort, Upchurch noted in her fellowship application that she felt a sense of personal obligation to this population for all they have taught her and that for as long as she could remember, she has been interested in international social services, humanitarian aid efforts and simply improving the lives of others. “I have always held the belief that if I have the ability to make another person’s life better by doing something they are unable to do for themselves, then it is my responsibility to do what I can for them. I believe people should take care of one another, because all we really have in this world is each other.”

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Rob Schneider
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