Fall 2019 • Volume 64/No.1
NASW-NYC Social Work in the City Spotlight
Wurzweiler Care Café®: Finding Community, Making Connections, Discovering Hope & Inspiration
Hana Frankl, Director
Wurzweiler Care Café®
Wurzweiler Care Café® is a grant funded program that allows Wurzweiler School of Social Work at Yeshiva University to bring free educational presentations and workshops on mental health topics to all five boroughs of the city. We provide a friendly, comfortable cafe environment, and a light meal to café attendees with the goal of allowing participants to feel supported and nurtured. Our programing is made possible by the generous support of the New York City Council.
Not everybody is ready for, or needs, individual therapy. But, most of us, at one time or another, need information about mental health topics, and need support around difficult and complex life issues. We address topics from a holistic, strengths-based perspective and, intentionally, unite psycho-education with an emotionally supportive, hope-filled, and spiritually encouraging message. Following the talk/workshop, participants are given time for discussion with the speaker and are given the opportunity for individual meetings with social work students, who provide vetted referrals to local, state, and national services.
The idea came to Dean Danielle Wozniak after reading an article about a program in Amsterdam, where neighborhood residents brought their used and broken appliances to be assessed and repaired by knowledgeable and generous technicians. Not only did these “Repair Cafés” reduce the clutter of landfills and breathe new life into old appliances, the cafés supported a sense of community and a reduction in loneliness among participants. Our aim through Care Café is to provide a “pop up” community around issues that people may be struggling with, or issues they want to know more about. They are aimed to be restorative, provide a space for healing, and, even if it is for a brief time, to accompany participants through their journey.
Through collaboration with community partners, social service providers, local politicians, veterans’ groups, and community advocates, we match the topic of the Cafés to the needs of the local community. Care Cafés have dealt with topics like, suicide prevention, loss and mourning, infertility, chronic doubt, depression, resiliency, how to raise healthy kids, reintegration assistance for veterans and their families, and addictions. We have also presented on the topic of how to find your life passion, and how to integrate a sense of play into your life. This year, among many other topics, we are looking to provide Cafés topics on the impact of school shootings and gun violence on children, community safety, and how to care for ourselves in a stressful world environment.
Wurzweiler School of Social Work students actively participate in the Cafés by greeting participants and by researching referral information prior to the cafés. They attend the cafés so that we can make sure that everyone has someone to sit with.
“When most people are in pain, they want information about the problem they are experiencing, and information about what they can do to feel better or make the situation better. Care Café offers that starting place,” said Dean Wozniak. “Care Café also provide valuable hands-on-training for our MSW and PhD students in clinical social work, community change, social justice advocacy.”
Care Cafés address pressing needs in the communities we serve. When a young man was murdered by gang members in the Bronx, we were there with our students to help residents deal with the effects of chronic grief, repeated tragedy and loss, trauma, and gang violence.
Care Café has also developed a parent engagement series in Washington Heights community schools, that are presented in Spanish to provide parents with tools and knowledge on topics that directly impact their children’s success in school and life. We also aim to provide tools to parents to advocate for themselves, their families and community.
In addition, we know that communities are “normally” designated by neighborhoods, cultures, languages, or ethnic background. But we have learned that community is also a shared life experience that crosses all cultural and socioeconomic boundaries. We have more in common than those things that separate us. Care Café builds on that sense of commonality and brings a sense of community, support, and aid based on shared experiences.
We look forward to seeing you at a Care Café near you.
NASW-NYC spotlights Wurzweiler Care Café for its innovative and holistic approach. This is truly how you Social Work in the City.