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Social work research team headed to South Africa in August

RELEASED: Aug. 1, 2011

Dr. Leah Olson-McBride

EAU CLAIRE — Five students from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire will depart Aug. 8 to participate in research in the Eastern Cape region of South Africa.

Dr. Leah Olson-McBride, assistant professor of social work, is leading an international research project on burnout and compassion fatigue among professional caregivers who provide services for children orphaned by the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

"South Africa continues to lead the world in the number of HIV/AIDS related fatalities. As a result, the number of children placed in out-of-home care increased 700 percent between 2002 and 2007," Olson-McBride said. "Most approaches to self-care for burnout and compassion fatigue are not feasible for the majority of these providers who have experienced multiple personal losses due to HIV/AIDS as well as extreme hardship due to poverty."

Dr. Leah Olson-McBride’s summer 2011 faculty/student research project in South Africa is offered through the International Fellows program, which is supported by UW-Eau Claire's Blugold Commitment.

The goal of the research project is to collect meaningful data that will inform the development of training and support programs for caregivers in that environment.

The student researchers, all senior social work majors, are Brianna Niemi, Pulaski; Andrea Krunnfusz, Baraboo; Honey Moua, Eau Claire; Kyrie Smith, Ashland; and Emily Girard, Red Wing, Minn. They will be in South Africa for three weeks. The project is funded by the International Fellows program, which is supported by the Blugold Commitment to expand student learning opportunities.

According to Dr. Vanda Galen, professor and chair of the social work department, the department has had a long-term relationship with social service agencies in South Africa. For the past 11 years social work students have had the opportunity to complete their senior internships at child care agencies in King Williams Town and Durban, South Africa.

For more information about the research project, contact Dr. Leah Olson-McBride, assistant professor of social work, at 715-836-5404 or olsonmcl@uwec.edu.

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VG/RD/DW

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