Catholic Charities teaches China how Houston recovers from disasters
July 10, 2018
Natalie Wood (center), senior vice president of programs for Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, recently traveled to Chengdu, China to share lessons learned in post-disaster relief from Hurricane Harvey. Arranging the presentations at the International Conference on Disaster Social Work for Children, were former Catholic Charities board member Dr. Monit Cheung, and current Catholic Charities board member Dr. Patrick Leung, both University of Houston professors. Photo courtesy of Catholic Charities.
HOUSTON — Natalie Wood, senior vice president of programs for Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, recently traveled to Chengdu, China to share lessons learned in post-disaster relief from Hurricane Harvey.
Wood, through contacts with current and former Catholic Charities board members, presented at the International Conference on Disaster Social Work for Children. The conference brought leaders in social work from across the globe to discuss the topics of disaster recovery as they relate to children.
“Social workers in China face many of the same challenges we face here in America,” Wood said. “They help families stabilize housing and increase their earnings and they work to make social change. Social workers there are still working with the families impacted by the earthquake 10 years ago. The workshop was a wonderful opportunity to learn from one another.”
After Hurricane Harvey’s destructive force last fall, Catholic Charities became intricately involved with post-storm relief efforts. During the city’s recovery period, University of Houston professor and Catholic Charities board member Dr. Patrick Leung coordinated a visit to Houston — and to Catholic Charities — for Dr. He Xuesong, East China University of Science and Technology (ESUST) Dean of the School of Social and Public Administration. He wanted to observe Houston’s hurricane response.
“During the meeting, I shared with him Catholic Charities’ mission and how our love for God is the foundation for all we do,” Wood said. “He was especially moved by the deep dignity and respect with which we treat our clients. He asked that I come to China to teach this method of social work to the students, especially those working with the earthquake survivors. I gladly accepted! What a rare opportunity to be able to share the love of Christ through service to others.”
At the conference, Wood presented Catholic Charities’ experiences, speaking about “Post Harvey Storm Relief Efforts in Houston, Texas, USA: Implications for Social Work Relief Work for Children in China.” Leung also spoke at the conference, as did Dr. Monit Cheung of the University of Houston, a former Catholic Charities board member.
Wood said, “I kept my presentations on social work terms. However, after every presentation or workshop, I had people come and speak to me about their faith. They told me how rare it was for someone from a faith-based organization to speak there. There are many people of faith there.”
After the international conference, Wood, Leung and Cheung also presented Social Work Practice Workshops at various universities in China, coordinated by Leung.
Wood presented at the International School of Social Work at ECUST, the Institute of Development at Southwestern University of Finance and Economics, and the School of Social and Public Administration at ECUST, giving presentations on “The Use of the Self and Nonverbal Behaviors in Effective Clinical Practice” to social work students in Shanghai and in Chengdu.
“I spoke about the importance of stepping outside of our own world view to understand another person and their culture. China has many different minority groups. The social workers must be able to adapt to meet each person where they are at, help them to determine what they most want to do and finally, help them to learn to take the steps to do this,” Wood said.
“It is being a mentor, a coach and a cheerleader — all without judgement, even when you are speaking about the reasons a decision may not be a good one. Many times we forget that as social workers, we speak with people about very intimate details of their lives that they have never shared with someone else. These moments are very sacred and very precious. They are holy and must be recognized and appreciated,” she said.
“The students were very interested and asked many questions. It was a great interactive workshop. The students became so engaged that they began to translate for one another as much as possible so that we wouldn’t have to wait for the translator!”
“I feel very blessed to have had the opportunity to represent Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston in China,” Wood said. “The Chinese people were warm and friendly. I was greeted with gracious hospitality wherever I went.”