Olivia Shaw
Olivia Shaw
South Africa, 2021
My name is Olivia Shaw and on January 13, 2021, I will be hopping on a plane to Cape Town, South Africa to begin work in Woodstock at a group home for immigrant and refugee children. I will be living in Cape Town for about six months and am so excited to see how my work will develop in my time there! Read More About Olivia →

Welcome to Our Village

Welcome to Our Village

What do we mean when we use the expression “It takes a village to raise a child” ?

I don’t get to post pictures of my sweet kiddos, but they love to take pictures of me too. Just know that they’re on the other side of the camera!

Within my scope of practice of social work, I would refer to the entirety of a child or family’s helping professionals that are involved with or contracted to work towards the success of the child or family as their “village”. Working as a unit of team players requires communication and collaboration between each of the helping professionals. It takes understanding the role of each professional and respecting their unique and specialized work with the family.

At my previous job before moving to South Africa, my role was to provide behavioral counseling to high risk youth as well as work with the families to practice conversations of collaboration and problem solving. Often, the youth I would work with would be suffering from something deeper that might be triggering the challenging behaviors the family was seeing. The children at Lawrence House are similar in this way: they are children who have experienced really hard things and require physical and emotional support.

Our village at Lawrence House supports our children’s individualized and unique needs to the best of their ability in many different ways. Because the children’s custody belongs with the country of South Africa, their physical and medical needs are secured.

We rely heavily on our community to provide services for our children at an affordable rate. Lawrence House relies also on food donations from local grocery stores that we receive several times per week. Over the past several years, Lawrence House has also developed strong partnerships with local grocery shops such as Woolworths and Pick n Pay to receive weekly donations of food in addition to government funding for other necessities for the children. What I am constantly reminded of and in awe of, is the underlying and simultaneously overarching narrative of Ubuntu (I am because We are) that is so deeply threaded into the culture of our corner of the world.

We rely heavily on volunteers because there are often not enough resources for the children, or due to documentation, visas, or paperwork, the children are ineligible to register for these necessary resources. There are barriers sometimes to individualized education, school enrollment, psychology services and other services. 

What happens here is one of a few things: the children can wait in a limbo phase until they are connected with the appropriate resources that they need, which can be anywhere from a couple of days to months and months, or they [Lawrence House] will broker out to someone who does not traditionally fill this role and ask for support.

I find it challenging to describe my position at Lawrence House or summarize exactly what it is that I do because when a role needs to be filled, often it comes to myself or another intern to manage the task. Since beginning my placement at Lawrence House, I have been responsible for analyzing a Psycho-educational Assessment and developing and Individualized Education Plan (IEP) for a child at Lawrence House and implementing the treatment plan (aka specialized tutoring for a child with severe learning delays) to developing a curriculum for teaching english to one of our children who did not speak any english when immigrating to South Africa. I am a volunteer, a teacher, a friend, a supervisor, and a mentor. I provide de-escalation and crisis intervention when our children become dysregulated. I am a hand to hold, a listening ear, a hug hello, a hug goodbye, a hug after a hard day. I go to camp with the children, I join for hikes,I plan field days, I teach the children games, I walk to soccer practice (one of my favorite times of the day), and cheer the children on. They do life and I for a little bit of time, I get to come in their space and join them in it.


In your corner,



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