In Ethiopia, as in many developing countries, the social work profession is still in its infancy. As a field of study and practice, it is not generally well understood by the public or by policymakers. However, the team at Yekatit 12 recognized the importance of social work for guiding patients and families through the treatment process and for equipping children with tools to adapt to school and community life.
Hirut Mengistu has worked at Yekatit 12 Hospital since 2007 as the assistance speech therapist. In 2011, she began to train as a social worker. In 2012, she increased her activity and reached 110 patients, up from 40 in 2011. She also created a local set of protocols for working with patients and families affected by cleft lip and palate.
In November 2012, Hirut enrolled in a part-time Master’s degree program in order to upgrade her skills, while continuing to work full-time at the cleft unit. Transforming Faces has agreed to provide a scholarship in support of her studies.
She now divides her time between social work and speech therapy. Hirut has led 4 parent group discussions and has provided counselling to parents. She is in charge of intake at the project and she sees about 3-4 families per week as part of this process.