The National Association of Social Workers Foundation
(NASWF) announces the Friends of Chernobyl Centers U.S., Inc. (FOCCUS,
INC) as the 2003 recipient of the International Rhoda G.
The National Association of Social Workers Foundation (NASWF) is
pleased to name FOCCUS, INC as the winner of the 2003 International
Rhoda G. Sarnat Award. FOCCUS, INC - composed of social workers,
psychologists, and educators-was originally founded to support community
centers, set up by the United Nations Chernobyl Program in Kiev,
serving populations and communities in Belarus, Ukraine, and Russia
that were severely affected by the disaster. Through education and
outreach programs, FOCCUS, INC also works to raise public awareness
in the United States of the devastating human consequences of the
Chernobyl nuclear accident.
The centers are responsible for providing psychosocial support to
individuals and groups comprised of local residents, evacuees, and
the people who cleaned the area after the accident. They are
also responsible for developing the capacity of communities for problem
solving and coping with crisis. FOCCUS, INC has primarily influenced
the training and education of the 130 social workers and other mental
health providers who staff the community centers. In 2002,
these staff members provided services to people who paid more than
164,000 visits to the community centers.
left: Elizabeth J. Clark, PhD, ACSW, MPH, President, NASW Foundation,
Executive Director, NASW; Kay Smith, MSW; Richard Darling,
DDS; Donna Ulteig, ACSW, DCSW; Norma Berkowitz, President,
Friends of Chernobyl Center, U.S. Inc. (FOCCUS); Gary Bailey,
MSW, President, NASW.
Despite the fact that the accident happened 17 years ago, it continues
to have a negative impact on many people still residing in the region,
as well as those affected by the disaster. Feelings of helplessness,
hopelessness, and despair are common among the millions affected. Training
provided by FOCCUS, INC focuses on the basic elements of social work
practice-values, ethics, process, roles, and outcomes-and explores
social work interventions with individuals, families, and groups,
as well as approaches to community work.
On April 26, 1986 a nuclear reactor
at Chernobyl created a tragic nuclear accident-the
only nuclear accident in history where radiation related
fatalities occurred-affecting more than eight million
people. This accident contaminated approximately
100,000 square miles, including parts of Belarus, Ukraine,
and Russia. More than three million people are
still living on contaminated land, and the immediate
and long-term effects of this accident remain controversial.
Recently, with diminished financial support from the United Nations
Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), FOCCUS,
INC activities began to identify and support the centers'financial
needs including Internet connections, arts and crafts supplies for
art therapy, and office equipment. The support of FOCCUS, INC
was instrumental in constructing a community activity room connected
to the 450 bed radiology clinic that serves all the children in Belarus
who are diagnosed and monitored for thyroid cancer. This center
was also able to develop training sessions and educational materials,
including a visual imaging program for children about to undergo
biopsies, and a parent-to-parent support program that reaches out
to parents when they are back in their home communities.
FOCCUS, INC, also provided funding for the purchase of four vans. Many
of these centers are located in rural areas with villages scattered
throughout. The vans make it possible to provide alcohol, drug,
and sex education-including HIV awareness-to these relatively isolated
President, Friends of Chernobyl Centers, U.S. Inc. (FOCCUS),
accepting the 2003 International Rhoda G. Sarnat Award.
Here in the United States, FOCCUS, INC members frequently serve
as speakers and educators about the devastating effects this accident
had on the millions of people in Belarus, Ukraine, and Russia.
Kofi Annan, Secretary General of the United Nations recently said, ".Millions
of people continue to be directly affected by the consequences of
this disaster. I remain deeply concerned by their plight. It
is particularly disturbing that few people realize the vast multitude
of problems that are still linked to this event and its aftermath."
Each year, the Children of Chernobyl U.S. Alliance-made up of more
than 30 faith-based groups-which Norma J. Berkowitz, President of
FOCCUS, INC is a board member, brings children from Chernobyl-affected
areas to the United States for a six-week summer program. Last
year, approximately 1,200 children participated. FOCCUS, INC
also partially funded a three-day seminar on social democracy in
May 2002, which staff members from each of the thirteen centers were
able to attend.
In addition, Berkowitz acts as a consultant working with students
from the University of Wisconsin School of Social Work who have an
Gary Bailey; Eleanor Kajeckas, FOCCUS Board Member; Mabs Mango,
FOCCUS Board Member; Donna Ulteig, FOCCUS Board Member; Norma
In Wisconsin, FOCCUS, INC has developed relationships with a local
elementary school to support the centers and an education project
involving a summer course offered to high school science and social
science teachers through University of Wisconsin.
Because of the dedication of FOCCUS, INC members, organization has
had a remarkable impact on these communities. The services
made possible through educational training and support, and , recently,
through financial support from FOCCUS, INC are essential to encourage
those affected take control of their lives and act as catalysts for
development within their communities.
The International Rhoda G. Sarnat Award is given to an individual,
group, or organization that has significantly advanced the public
image of social work. This monetary award, administered by
the NASWF, is made possible by an endowment generously established
by distinguished social worker, Rhoda G. Sarnat, LCSW, and her husband,
Bernard Sarnat, MD.