2018 IASWG Symposium in South Africa

Personal Account of the ​2018 Symposium by Paul Johnson, IASWG Member, Symposium Attendee and Presenter

IASWG Gedig - Below is a poem written and read by the student volunteer, Christele Stacey Lloyd, describing the strong message of group bonding among the student volunteers during the symposium. 

Ubuntu means...

Kindered hearts strung together
by the mouth of the wine bottles passed around.
Bubbles of laughter like champagne
make the bitter taste of tears palpable
as each question bares more of each person to the circle of love among us.

Dialects that are spoken through glances
while words fly around carelessly.

Encouragments poured out in high spirits without consideration of language or colour.

This is what Ubuntu means to me.
It means a hostel room that turned into a melting pot of loud nations at 2 am under a diamond studded African sky.
It means the dizzy giggles of wine bottles clinking against teeth and the floor and against our hearts as we swallow the same pain in different flavours.
It means strength found in shared experiences no matter the continent they beat us up in and the open floor we created for us to dance into being better versions of ourselves.

Ubuntu means Social worker to me.
-Christele Stacey Lloyd (South African Student Volunteer) 


For the full symposium programme, including the educational presentation offerings, please click here.

To view photos from the symposium, click here.

As the members of the IASWG organization celebrate their 40th international symposium in South Africa, it is our view that our 2018 symposium theme of “Bridging the Divide: Group Work for Social Justice” is an appropriate and relevant theme in our current global environment. At the core of social group work is the need to bridge the divide to develop mutual aid to foster a socially just society where all members have the same opportunities to attain material goods, income and wealth. The valuing of diverse perspectives and experiences is a heartfelt call to understanding the meaning of Ubuntu in South Africa and all of Africa. Ubuntu is about humaneness, and it embraces values of respect, solidarity, community development, social responsibility, justice, and equality. That said, bridging the divide, in our view, suggests more than just an appreciation of diversity. It is a real recognition of being part of humanity. Bridging the divide for social justice is about people living and working in a globalized society brought together with a common group purpose. 


Programme at a Glance

Thursday, June 7th:

  • 8:00 AM - 17:00: Registration open in the Foyer of the Conference Venue. 
    • Usually, tourists/visitors go directly to the Skukuza Reception Office when they arrive. In our case for the symposium, please go directly to the Conference Venue and meet Nosipho. She will give the keys to your accommodation and receive the conservation fees for the other days not included in the symposium dates. Please bring a copy of your booking confirmation and symposium registration.
  • Outstitute Community Visit with social workers and children of South Africa ($50/person, includes light lunch)
    • Departing at 11:30 AM
    • Returning to Skukuza at 6:30-7:00 PM (18:30-19:00)
  • Boma Fire (informal dinner & gathering starting around 19:00 (7:00 PM), pay at event R185.00 per person, about $20 USD). Join us for an informal opportunity to socialize and connect at a traditional Boma Braai dinner in Skukuza, next to the river. There will be a delicious dinner menu, cash bar, and huge fire. The Boma Braai dinner is optional for anyone who wants to join. The cost is R185.00 per person (payable at the registration table). Meal includes: Succulent grilled karoo lamb chops, tender chicken fillet kebab, fresh garden salad, seasonable vegetable potjie, pap and sheba sauce, and garlic butter loaf. The Parks staff will make a large fire and guests can sit under a thatched area and eat and drink.

Friday, June 8th:

  • 7:30 AM - 17:00: Registration open in the Foyer of the Conference Venue. 
  • 8:00AM - 10:00AM: Welcoming Reception (breakfast included) & Sumner Gill Memorial Plenary. Entertainment provided by the award-winning Giyani Society for The Aged Choir
    • The breakfast buffet includes warm and cold dishes, fruit, breads, and cereals. 

  • 10:00AM - 11:00AM: Educational Presentations (Session One)
  • 11:00AM - 11:30AM: Coffee Break
  • 11:30AM - 12:30PM: Educational Presentations (Session Two)
  • 12:30 - 14:30 / 12:30PM - 2:30PM: Lunch (included) & Beulah G. Rothman Memorial Plenary
    • The lunch includes traditional bobotie, fried hake, lamb stew, yellow rice, broccoli with white sauce, glazed carrots, and green salad.
  • 14:30 - 15:30 / 2:30PM - 3:30PM: Educational Presentations (Session Three)
  • 15:45 - 16:45 / 3:45PM - 4:45PM: Invitational Presentations 
  • 16:45 - 17:30 / 4:45PM - 5:30PM: Poster Presentations & Coffee Break
  • 17:30 - 18:30 / 5:30PM - 6:30PM: Membership Meeting

Saturday, June 9th:

  • 7:30AM: Board Meeting (breakfast on your own)
  • 9:00AM - 10:00AM: Educational Presentations (Session Five)
  • 10:00AM - 10:15AM: Coffee Break
  • 10:15AM - 11:15AM: Educational Presentations (Session Six)
  • 11:30AM - 1:30PM: Lunch (included) & Joan K. Parry Memorial Plenary
  • 13:30 - 14:30 / 1:30PM - 2:30PM: Educational Presentations (Session Seven)
  • 14:45 - 15:15 / 2:45PM - 3:15PM: Educational Presentations (Session Eight)
  • 15:15 / 3:15PM: Coffee Break
  • 16:30 / 4:30PM: Depart for Gala includes Game Drive & Bush Braai Dinner ($50/person)
    • The Gala event is a two-hour sunset/night drive in game viewing vehicles, followed by a bush braai. The trucks depart strictly at 16:30 on Saturday. At the time of departure all gala attendees must have signed an indemnity form. They should have gone to the bathrooms – there are no disembarking from the vehicles allowed during the two hours’ drive. First opportunity for a WC will be where we have the bush braai. All should dress in warm clothes; beanies, scarves, gloves, warm jackets, closed shoes and legs covered. It cools down a lot when the sun sets and can get very cold on the open trucks. We will return to the rest camp by 21:00-21:30.

    • Meal includes: matured beef sirloin, succulent grilled Karoo lamb chops, tender chicken kebab, venison, fresh garden salad, seasonable vegetable potjie, pap and sheba sauce (African dish made of mealie meal), garlic butter loaf, and dessert. One bottle red wine and one bottle white wine sponsored per table. The rest is a cash bar. 


Sunday, June 10th

  • Half-day Outdoor Experiential Session & Closing Ceremony (similar to Group Work Camp): The Sunday program is sponsored by the Skukuza Employee Assistance Office. We meet at 9:00am in front of the conference venue where the Skukuza buses will pick us up and drive us to the Skukuza soccer field for some recreational and experiential group work activities. This will entail tug-of-war, sack races etc. in teams of IASWG against Skukuza staff. We will have a drink and snack and then have the closing ceremony for the symposium and return to the camp by 11:00-11:30am.

Recommended Attire

The atmosphere in Kruger is very relaxed - safari and wildlife relaxed. Day temperatures in Skukuza currently range from 30-35 degrees Celsius. This means that you can wear short sleeve shirts during the day with slacks/denims. A light jacket or jersey can be kept handy as it is winter and may cool down at times. In the evening after 16:00 and at night, is can become quite cold. South Africa is even diverse in its daily temperatures: 25-35 degrees Celsius during the day and 6-10 degrees Celsius at night.

  • For the Thursday Visit: Dress very comfortably. We will drum and play with the children. And the area is quite dusty with limited resources such as taps and water. Slacks and t-shirts are appropriate.
  • For Symposium: Dress very relaxed and comfortable. A few of our IASWG Members from South Africa remarked that they often smile looking at tourists with full safari clothing.
  • For Sunday Program: Again, dress very relaxed and comfortable with sneakers and jeans. It is important to wear sunscreen.
  • For Gala Event: Dress warm as we drive out in open wildlife viewing vehicles. It can get very cold driving out in the bush. Beanies, gloves, scarves, warm socks, closed shoes, warm jackets are encouraged. The vehicles have a warm blanket for every person; however, please make sure to dress warm. Regardless of being cold, we guarantee that the two-hour night drive is amazing and very special.

Final clothing and packing reminders:

  • Bring your camera and binoculars.
  • Kruger does not provide hair dryers, you must provide your own.
  • Electricity is 220/230 volts.

Pre-Symposium Outstitue: Thursday Community Visit 

The Community Visit, on Thursday 7 June, will be to the communities adjacent to the national park. We plan to take attendees with two buses to two different child care centres where children go every weekday after school to receive a meal and play in a safe area for two hours. We will each paint a t-shirt with a child that the child can keep. If in any way possible, attendees will eat with the children – the prescribed government meal for the day on the menu. Through music and art (therapy) attendees will spend time with the children.

The organisation running these centres is Sizabantwana (sizabantwana.org). The two centres are:

  • Amukelani Centre: Located 5 kilometres from the Impilo Centre, in Marite/ Bushbuckridge, – this project commenced in July 2008. It initially cared for 30 children, but the numbers of children have grown significantly. The project functions from a double garage attached to a private home of one of the volunteer care givers. The facilities are very basic with cooking and storage of food situated all in one area. Minimal outside recreational equipment exists. The plan is to relocate this project to a nearby permanent facility as soon as funding becomes available.
  • Siyakhula Centre: This project is in Alexandria Trust, Bushbuckridge. The project consists of 5 passionate Child Care Workers from the community to support the orphans and vulnerable children. Currently there are 109 children receiving care and support at this centre. This program also functions in a garage where daily meals are prepared for the children, however Sizabantwana continues to do its best to fund raise to buy their own premises within these communities.

Excursion Fee $50, includes:  

  • Travel costs with the bus
  • T-shirt
  • Paint
  • Survival kit (water, wet wipes and sunscreen)

About the Symposium Bags

Local women's groups are making bags for symposium attendees. Your registration fee is helping to support the efforts of local organizations near Kruger National Park, contributing to both social and economic development.

Group 1: The Schaumbag group. This group is made up of unemployed women in the community of Schaumburg in North West Province. Every Tuesday and Thursday they meet to build up their sewing, knitting and crocheting skills. They converse about the social ills and dream of working their way out through these skills. Their names are Miriam, Jerida, Sarah and Elizabeth.

Group 2: The Church group in Xawela block 23, Giyani. The group is comprised of members of the New Life Apostolic Church who are unemployed, and many have no external sources of income except child grants. Learning to use a sewing machine is a skill that they find worthy and discussions about their social affairs forms part of the group. The leader of the church, Pastor MS Valoyi is the mentor and teacher in the group, developing the ladies' skills and knowledge of sewing.


Group 3: The Sizabantwana group - the women in this group, Brenda, Agrinet, Polutio and Doris are all unemployed and have never before done sewing. They now learn the skill in the group and are making bags for the symposium. They have learned very quickly and are very excited about the opportunity.


Plenary Speakers

Sumner Gill Memorial Plenary

Build the Social Justice Bridge: A Photovoice Project for International Social Work Education

Presenters: Lorrie Greenhouse Gardella, Southern Connecticut State University, New Haven, CT (USA) and Reineth (CE) Prinsloo, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa

This interactive session will explore how social work students from around the world understand the concepts of “social divide” and “social justice” and the role of group work in “bridging the divide” to promote social justice.  Based on Photovoice research, symposium participants will use photographs submitted by students to build an art installation, the Social Justice Bridge; to analyze common themes; and to reflect critically on social justice content in group work education.

Beulah G. Rothman Memorial Plenary

Sizabantwana: A Story about Doing the Right Thing because the Time is Always Right!

Presenters: Frank Mashego, Manager; Minky Makhubedu-Mashego, Coordinator of projects; Rita Wasserman, IASWG Member, Volunteer and Social Worker; Jaco Lubbe, Chairperson; Japie Lubbe, Treasurer and Marketing

The story of Sizabantwana is an exemplary illustration of compassion, care, collaboration and dedication to bridge the divide for social justice. In 1999, when a group of young farmers in Hazyview in Mpumalanga in South Africa got to know about the fate of children in their neighboring town, Mariti, they went to action to address the needs of vulnerable children and orphans despite the social, economic, and political turmoil in the country. Group work, with all its dynamics and components came into operation. The farmers, community leaders and volunteers from diverse levels came together with the aim to make a difference and this resulted in the birth of an NGO called Sizabantwana. Sizabantwana care for over 800 children in the Mariti area on a daily basis in a rural area where water and electricity and tar roads are not a given, but a luxury. With a strong and diverse team that give time, resources and passion, they ensure that the children receive a healthy and balanced meal per day and in addition, provide love and tender care through numerous programs. A strong marketing focus ensures donations to assist in running the services. In this presentation, team members and children who are beneficiaries of Sizabantwana will narrate the story of change and working toward social justice and will illustrate action with the words of the famous Madiba Nelson Mandela: "The time is always right to do the right thing!”

Joan K. Parry Memorial Plenary

Gains and Pitfalls of Contact Theory through Arts within an Arab-Jewish Conflict Group in Israel

Presenter: Ephrat Huss, Professor of Social Work at Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Beer Sheba, Israel. She is a licensed social worker and art therapist in Israel.

Fostering positive interaction between two groups of youth, Arab and Jewish, that is based on joint activity, can reduce hostility, prejudice and separateness such that over time these destructive emotions are replaced with cooperation, friendship and good neighboring. Favorable intergroup contact leads to psychological processes that reduce dissonance and produce more favorable attitudes toward individuals from the other group and toward the group as a whole in order for these perceptions to be consistent with the positive nature of the interaction. The arts are an action based method that focus on 'doing' rather than on verbal interaction. The arts are suited to the creativity and need for control characteristic of youth, and help to bridge different cultures through focusing on the visual elements of global youth culture. This presentation will outline the successes and failures of a funded project that involved 10 groups of Arab-Jewish youth living in proximity in Israel, for a set of 13 meetings, based on joint art work. The group work was researched and evaluated using qualitative methods including recording of the group meetings, photographing the art products, and interviewing the leaders and some participants retrospectively.