Re-examining what we think we know: A lesson learned from Tamil refugees

It is important to learn from our clients, critically reflect on what we think we know, and hold beliefs tentatively until information confirms or disputes our ideas about particular cultural groups. These are basic tenants of good social work practice. Having made these statements numerous times myself, I was recently reminded of their importance.
Many people seeking refugee or asylee status travel through Buffalo, New York due to its location on the Canadian border and proximity to cities such as Toronto and Montreal with large international populations. Cultural competency is a major focus of my work so I was drawn to working with these populations in transition. At the time of the project, the largest refugee population passing through Buffalo were Tamils from Sri Lanka. Working with a team of researchers, I adapted the Harvard Trauma Questionnaire (HTQ), a tool developed to assess trauma in Southeast Asian populations (Mollica, Caspi-Yavin, Bollini, Truong, Tor, & Lavelle, 1992).

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