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Q & A with Laurie Reyman


Contact: Emily Williams

Posted March 31, 2011

Bulawayo, Zimbabwe

What was your program of study and graduation date?
I was a macro/community-focused MSW student and also got a certificate in non-profit management; graduated in May 2009

What are your previous degree(s)/year and at which school(s)?
B.A. in international studies with a focus on Africa, June 2006, Portland State University.

Prior/current work experience?
I worked many years in customer service at veterinary hospitals in order to pay the bills before, during and after getting my undergraduate degree. While getting my MSW I worked with Dean Daniels as a graduate assistant, which included co-producing the Hollowell documentary along with other research. In July 2009, I came to Liberia as a project officer with the Carter Center (I interned with them for a year during my MSW studies). I am head of office at our Harper office, which is responsible for our programming in the 5 southeastern counties of the country. We have 3 programs in this region - a community legal advising program, a rule of law civic education program and the chiefs project which works with traditional authorities to increase their conflict resolution capacities. Our programs are implemented by local partner NGOs, except for the chiefs project, and we work closely with the government.

Why social work?
The most simple and obvious answer is that I wanted to build a career around service because that's where I find value in life. I also wanted a hands on and practical career and that's what social work is.

March is Social Work Month. This year's theme is "Social Workers Change Futures." How are you changing futures?
I find it difficult to answer that question because I think it's rare that we can really see the change we make or impact we have, so I prefer to answer the question "how do I hope to change futures?" Like any social worker I want to bring positive change and hope for a better future to individuals, communities and even countries around me. In my case, that's Africa and Harper, Liberia in particular, right now. I would say that currently I am hoping to bring change in 3 ways. The first is simply in my personal interactions with friends, colleagues and even strangers around me, from having a conversation with a colleague where I encourage him to allow his wife to choose her own program of study and who she wants to vote for rather than telling her what she has to do, to paying for a teen mother's school fees. The second is through my work where I try to build the capacity of my colleagues in many varying ways and to build effective programs that will strengthen peace by giving citizens more ownership of the government and improving the provision of justice. The third is through a personal project I'm working on right now called Visions of Hope, which is a public art and youth project with the goal of revitalizing the arts in Harper, Liberia through the creation of murals that will affirm a belief in social change and the future of Liberian culture, while at the same time fostering the development of emotional well-being in Liberian youth. It will begin in April and be completed at the end of June.