In the Thin Country

GSSWSR students work to improve the juvenile justice system in Chile.

Last year, Elyse Tierney, a student in the Graduate School of Social Work and Social Research, approached GSSWSR Professor Carolina Hausmann-Stabile about opportunities for a summer internship. Tierney wanted to work with a Latin American population while honing her clinical Spanish, and Hausmann-Stabile, whose research on suicidal behaviors among adolescent Latinas brings her frequently to Latin America, connected Tierney with Fundación Tierra de Esperanza, a Chilean nonprofit that works with vulnerable children and youth.

What did you do in Chile?

My first week, I attended the Fundación’s Encuentro Científico Internacional [International Scientific Meeting], during which I participated in a group of psychologists, professors, researchers, and social workers discussing the implications of polyvictimization for children and adolescents. At week’s end, we presented our plans for further research and areas of inquiry and listened to plans from the other groups that had focused on mental health, autoregulation, and suicidal conduct.

At the Encuentro, I made contact with Fundación employees from multiple sites all over Chile—which helped when I traveled to Antofagasta to begin my project with the Fundación.

What did you do in Antofagasta?

My primary project was to begin the process of systematizing the juvenile justice work intervention program. I interviewed the key members of the Fundación who are implementing the program as well as representatives from Chile’s child welfare system and from Finning, Caterpillar's worldwide equipment distributor in Antofagasta. The Fundación has partnered with Finning to train individuals in the juvenile justice system in welding. Individuals who graduate from this program graduate with a certification in welding, along with soft-skills training, assistance in applying for jobs, and a three-month follow-up at the job they are accepted for. During my time with the Fundación, I compiled the foundational information needed to begin the process of manualizing this intervention to further its implementation in the future. Compiling the information was quite a challenge, but it was incredible to see how committed each member of the team was to its success and improvement.

What did you gain from this experience?

This experience was an incredible challenge with incredible reward. I was part of a project that has the potential to greatly improve the lives of many incarcerated youth, and I feel incredibly proud of the work I did. The camaraderie within the Fundación is remarkable. I benefited greatly from the support of co-workers who helped me with small things like reading someone’s handwriting to large things like understanding Chile’s advanced approach to promoting children’s rights. We also spent a good amount of time watching the World Cup!  

Julie Riese (left) and Elyse Tierney in Chile

Land of Hope

Joining Tierney at the Fundación this summer, Julie Riese, M.S.S. ’18, helped develop its international collaboration with global partners such as Bryn Mawr. 

“Participating in the Encuentro Científico provided important context to the work the Fundación is advancing in Chile and beyond and served as a deep dive into my international social work career,” Riese explains. “As I continue my work in Chile with the Fundación as a research associate, I appreciate the continued collaboration with both Carolina and Elyse in further developing this international partnership with Bryn Mawr.”