Katie Sanford, PSYC 417A

Katie Sanford

Year of Study During Placement: 3rd

Placement Course and Year: PSYC 417A, 2015

Faculty and Major: Arts, Psychology

Placement Country: Swaziland

Placement Organization: SOS Children’s Villages, Mbabane


Katie Sanford travelled to Swaziland’s capital, Mbabane, to work with SOS Children’s Villages in 2015. As a psychology student in PSYC 417A, Katie was invested in assessing the mental health of children in the village. Using a psycho-social child development questionnaire and informal interviews, Katie collected information on most of the children in the village – over 130 of them. Katie used the data to facilitate workshops with the village’s caretakers and the older children to create spaces to talk about challenges and successes in their lives. Because she was partnered with a sociology student, Katie took an inter-disciplinary approach, examining mental health through both a personal psychological lens and a broader sociological one.

Katie’s placement reinforced her passion for working with communities and left her questioning how she could best use her skills to help meet the ever-changing needs of communities and society at large. Seeing members of her organization at work opened her eyes to the many ways one can work in partnership with NGOs. Community development relies on this diversity of approaches to include and empower a diverse range of people. She cites the village father and Child and Youth Development Coordinator, Sipoh, as one of her biggest inspirations. “Learning from him was definitely one of my favorite parts of the placement,” she says.

“My placement reinforced my passion for working with communities and left me considering how I can best use my skills.”

Katie was challenged to work beyond the western ideal of productivity being defined solely by tangible outcomes and successes. In the developmental framework that guided her placement work, an individual might not experience “success.” But she found value in other areas of her placement, specifically in the personal connections she made and in the capacity-building approach that she took in her project. Ultimately she found that ethical development moves slowly; to best facilitate different viewpoints, backgrounds, and goals, it must be. She knows that doesn’t make it unproductive; in fact it is quite the opposite. Making this connection is critical for those considering an international placement; but Katie also stresses the importance of asking critical questions and taking advantage of all the many opportunities that present themselves – you never know where you might end up.