Anju Lamichhane, MSW ’19, macro program, global practice
The Research Program on Children and Adversity (RPCA) at the Boston College School of Social Work
Lamichhane is assigned to the RPCA’s Family Strengthening Intervention for Refugees (FSI-R) project, which aims to decrease mental health disparities among Somali Bantu and Bhutanese refugee children and families in New England through home-based interventions. The project uses a community based participatory research (CBPR) approach to test the intervention for feasibility, acceptability, and effectiveness, and is currently scaling up from an 80-family pilot to a 300-family study.
Lamicchane helps support FSI-R program implementation. As such, one of her tasks is to develop and maintain a database of community resources and services in Springfield, Massachusetts, and Lewiston, Maine, that the interventionists and research assistants can access as needed to share with families. For example, FSI-R data indicated the Somali Bantu and Bhutanese children in the pilot lacked meaningful summertime activities, so Lamichhane is gathering information on summer camps, programs, and scholarship opportunities for refugee families.
Lamichhane is also spearheading a Youth Community Advisory Board (Youth CAB) for the adolescents in the Bhutanese community in Springfield. Youth CAB is both an integral component of CBPR and a critical element of the partnership between the youth and the RPCA researchers. It will provide a platform for the youth to communicate their challenges and strengths, as well as ways in which the intervention might better address their needs.
Additionally, Lamichhane, who is from Nepal, has the opportunity to use her native language skills conducting exit interviews with the Bhutanese interventionists from the pilot study—community members, themselves refugees, who work for the RPCA. “We discuss family interventions and how we can improve the process,” she says. “During these exit interviews, I’m translating and transcribing at the same time and then analyzing those data.”
“Working in this placement with refugee families and children has given me access to such a diverse set of issues,” says Lamichhane. “I am a macro student, but I am now more clinically informed by participating in the FSI-R’s weekly clinical supervision calls where the interventionists debrief about the issues and challenges that these families are experiencing.”
“I love my supervision here,” says Lamichhane. “My clinical supervisor is Dr. Jordan Farrar, who is the associate director of research at RPCA. I appreciate her reflective and thoughtful feedback on my work. One of the reasons I chose this internship was because I wanted to develop research skills and techniques, and her background in research and social work is extremely helpful to me.”
Lamichhane also works with Program Manager Jenna Berent, who supervises the FSI-R Somali and Bhutanese interventionists. “Jenna has a degree in public health and her passion for helping refugee children and families has inspired me—I have learned so much from helping her with this project,” says Lamichhane.
Additionally, she relishes working alongside the RPCA team—whose collective expertise spans the social sciences from psychology and social work to public health and economics. “It’s so interesting to see how people from different educational backgrounds approach solutions, it is giving me a strong platform to self-reflect and grow as a macro social work student,” she says.
“The most significant takeaway for me from this field placement is the first-hand experience in developing my research skills,” says Lamichhane. “Before I started this placement, I did not know much about research, and now I understand how research works and how data is collected and transformed into interventions in the real world. I am learning so many research skills and techniques that I will use in my career.”
She is also excited by her personal growth as a social worker. “By conducting exit interviews, I have learned how much an intervention has helped a family to strengthen their relationships, how much it has helped families to pursue available resources and community services when they are in need,” says Lamichhane. “These intervention modules for refugee families are very helpful. It’s not just one sided, we’re not just collecting data.”
Lamichhane’s short-term plans include graduating this spring and being a member of a data collection team for another research-based internship. “After that, I’d like to pursue a Ph.D. in social work in the U.S. or Canada,” she says.
Her long-term plan includes returning to Nepal to help eradicate Chhaupadi, a cultural tradition in rural Nepal that banishes girls and women from the household during menstruation and, in some instances, to menstrual huts. These huts, outlawed by the Nepalese government in 2005, are isolated, frequently unheated, and unsafe.
“My goal is to better understand how menstrual stigma affects girls,” says Lamichhane. She is particularly interested in determining its effects on their school performance and attendance. “I want to work from the community level to intervene with this issue based on research,” she says.