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Wilfrid Laurier University Development
December 4, 2016
Canadian Excellence

Allison La Vigne
Allison La Vigne

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Grant helps Master of Social Work student do internship in Burundi

Communications, Public Affairs & Marketing

Jul 20/07

Laurier Master of Social Work student Allison La Vigne will travel to Burundi this fall to help citizens rebuild after devastating floods and a 13-year civil war.

But instead of constructing buildings, La Vigne will be helping residents rebuild their emotional well-being and their capacity for community development.

It all became possible through a $10,000 grant from the Students for Development Program. Designed to help Canadian students work with partners in the developing world to promote good governance, the program will allow La Vigne to complete three months of her Master of Social Work internship in the African country.

“This is a project where healing is the cornerstone to rebuilding a community at all levels of its governance,” says La Vigne.

While in Burundi, La Vigne will partner with the African Great Lakes Initiative (AGLI), an organization that supports and promotes peace activities such as conflict management, peace building, trauma healing and reconciliation.

La Vigne will help in two key areas.

First, AGLI will train La Vigne in Healing and Rebuilding Our Communities (HROC) workshops. Through the workshops, La Vigne will help to foster post-traumatic growth and spread information about post-traumatic stress disorder to some of the poorest rural regions in the country. According to La Vigne, women and children are “some of the most deeply affected” by trauma. She hopes the workshops will “benefit women’s self-determination and the future generations of Burundi.”

Following her HROC training, La Vigne also wants to contribute to AGLI initiatives by developing templates for new Asset-Based Community Development workshops. These workshops will help empower citizens, especially women, “who are experts of their lived experiences, yet whose voices are marginalized when it comes to governing their own communities.” La Vigne sees the workshops as a tool for local and regional development that would allow citizens to conduct community asset mapping, and mobilize people to actively participate in society.

La Vigne will engage local women in focus groups to “find out about existing strengths within the communities and to collaboratively design new paradigms of thinking about development that come from their worldview and experiences.”

She is also expecting to learn something about herself.

“Allison is prepared to work hard at acknowledging her own privileged position and plans to find ways to openly work her own identity into a mutually respective process of capacity building with local women in Burundi,” says Peter Donahue, director of Laurier International.

The internship requirements stipulate that La Vigne not only challenge her own identity, but that she synthesize the practical learning from Burundi with theory when she returns to the classroom.

The Students for Development Program is designed and managed by the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada, and financially supported by the Canadian International Development Agency. A total of 138 students are selected every year to participate in these internships.

Lori Chalmers Morrison
Public Affairs


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