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Social Work Students Meet with Ukrainian Refugees on Study Abroad Trip

August 29, 2022

  • ASU social work students and faculty at the Innocent Foundation in Bucharest, Romania

A group of Angelo State University social work students and faculty had the opportunity to engage with a large group of Ukrainian refugee families while on a month-long ASU study abroad trip to Europe this summer.

Titled “Unique Europe,” the trip was designed for the students to study the European social welfare system, as well as European culture and diversity, and learn more about the origin of social welfare services. It included stops at universities, social services agencies and cultural sites in the Czech Republic, Germany, the Netherlands and Romania.

It was while in Bucharest, Romania, that the ASU group met the Ukrainian refugees who had fled the Russian invasion of their home country. Dr. Thomas Starkey, chair of the ASU Department of Social Work and Sociology, led the study abroad trip.

Dr. Thomas Starkey Dr. Thomas Starkey “I arranged with my contact and colleague in Romania the opportunity to visit with the Innocent Foundation, the organization in Romania that provides services to Ukrainian refugees,” Starkey said. “There were roughly 50 families that were there and receiving services. Our ASU students and faculty were able to engage with the refugees on two different occasions, mainly through activities with the children.”

Valentina Maghirescu, director of the Bucharest branch of the Innocent Foundation (Fundatia Inocenti), coordinated the ASU visits with the refugees.

“It was a joy to have the group of students from Angelo State University visit our programs,” Maghirescu said. “They were able to see what we do in our regular educational program, but they also got involved in the work we do with refugee children. From the second they walked in the center, they were eager to help and they jumped into action. They brought big smiles on all the kids’ faces, playing in the courtyard and teaching them how to fly kites. Might I add that the students picked a great field to study and they will become great professionals one day.”

ASU students on the “Unique Europe” study abroad trip were:

ASU social work faculty members Dr. Anne Scaggs and Ingrid Russo also helped lead the study abroad trip along with Starkey. The academic component of the trip also involved faculty from the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands, the University of Frankfurt in Germany, and the University of Bucharest in Romania.