Simmons social workers volunteer at Occupy Boston camp
It's been one month since Occupy Boston protesters set up camp in Boston's Dewey Square as part of a national movement that's speaking out against economic inequity. Since then, Boston's "tent city" has grown into a community of nearly 200 members, with its own security team, medical tents and food stations.
To keep a peaceful environment, demonstrators say they're trying to live day-to-day operations in a "horizontal democracy" where there are no leaders and everyone has an equal voice. However, with hundreds of people living in such close quarters, many of whom are under economic stress, conflicts naturally arise.
Enter Simmons School of Social Work Professor Dawn Belkin Martinez, and social work students Emily Balazs and Chloe Frankel. They've been volunteering their time to offer emotional support, defuse potentially dangerous situations, and provide mediation training to members of Occupy Boston.
"The mental health needs of the occupiers vary," said graduate student Emily Balazs in a recent Huffington Post article. "Some just need to talk after a fight they've had with their boyfriend or girlfriend, and then there are other situations where, as in the night of the arrests, people need more intensive treatment."
Author Melissa Jeltsen says "the Occupy movement is a natural fit for social workers, who witness firsthand the connection between economic stability and physical and mental well-being." Simmons social work student Emily Balazs says volunteering at Occupy Boston allows her to apply her social work training to a real-world setting:
"We are taught to take action, we are taught to fight systems of oppression," she says. "We are obligated by our Code of Ethics to empower and advocate for vulnerable populations and to speak out against people and institutions that threaten our ability to do so. That is the history of our profession. I can't think of a more perfect place for a social worker to be."