Social Work Students & Faculty Travel to Winnipeg to Learn about International Human Rights
College of Nursing & Professional Disciplines
Amnesty International defines human rights as “basic rights and freedoms that all people are entitled to regardless of nationality, sex, national or ethnic origin, race, religion, language, or other status. Human rights include civil and political rights.”
On October 27th, a group of 24 social work students and faculty visited the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg, MB to learn the stories of those who have experienced the denial of basic human rights throughout Canada and the world. While at the museum, students spent the morning visiting the various exhibits and galleries including, “What are Human Rights,” Examining the Holocaust,” “Breaking the Silence,” and “indigenous Perspectives.” The galleries include multimedia shows, giant panoramic screens, art, and artifacts that described various aspects of human rights. Students enjoyed viewing the exhibits and learning about international human rights while also understanding the important role of social workers in promoting the rights of everyone.
Student, Bailey Kitko stated, “The museum built long walkways between each exhibit to encourage reflection and formation of ideas on human rights. [The reflection time] made me more aware of human rights issues and made me realize, as a social work student, how important it is to advocate for oppressed people around the world.”
At the end of the day, the faculty and students attended a presentation by Dr. Maria Cheung, Associate Professor of Social Work at the University of Manitoba, about her research on China and forced organ harvesting. Dr. Cheung informed the group about the execution and involuntary donation of organs from Chinese prisoners, particularly those who are imprisoned for practicing the traditional Chinese meditative practice of Falun Gong. Many governmental groups, including the Canadian government, and the group, Doctors Against Forced Organ Harvesting (DAFOH), are working to raise awareness of this crime against humanity and force the Chinese government to end this practice. Students and faculty were unaware of forced organ harvesting prior to their trip, and were shocked to learn that individuals all over the world, including the United States, might receive a needed organ transplant “harvested” from a Chinese political prisoner. The students were moved to ask if they might do something jointly with the social work students at the University of Manitoba to support them in raising awareness about this issue, and their social work club president enthusiastically agreed to help explore ways for our students to work together.
Barb Kramer, Assistant Professor of Social Work, and lead organizer of the trip, stated, “The trip was a great experience to help students understand Social Work issues on an international level.”
For some students, the trip to Winnipeg was their first opportunity to travel outside of the United States. Being able to experience going through Customs, the changes in signs from English to French, and the variances in culture were all new and beneficial experiences for them.
Another benefit of the trip was that students and faculty were able to spend quality time together outside of the classroom. Not only did students engage in dialogue with their professors about human rights issues, but they also got to know them on a more personal level.
Student, Jenna DeSmidt summed up the trip when she said, “It was an unforgettable experience because we got the opportunity to learn outside of the classroom while also connecting/networking with our fellow Social Work classmates and professors.”
Amnesty International (2015). Human Rights Basics. Retrieved from http://www.amnestyusa.org/research/human-rights-basics
Walker, Alyssa, "Social Work Students & Faculty Travel to Winnipeg to Learn about International Human Rights" (2015). UND News Archive. 1165.