Silver Alum Miki Russell Puts Global Experience to Work in Tanzania

Michelle "Miki" Russell, LMSW, a 2013 NYU Silver School graduate who participated in the global mental health course our McSilver Institute developed and taught in Buenos Aires, Argentina, recently wrote, "My graduate education at NYU was a major chapter in the journey to my current career in international social welfare and child development."

Miki is now living in northern Tanzania where she serves as Education and Sponsorship Coordinator for The Small Things, Inc. (TST), a non-government organization located in the village of Nkoaranga, that Miki said, "believes in building and supporting happy families in all their various shapes and forms by creating sustainable, participatory, and evolving care plans for orphaned and vulnerable children and families. TST was founded to support operations of the Nkoaranga Orphanage which is home to 24 children from birth to age 5, and has expanded to also provide residential care at the Happy Family Children's Village, home to 22 children ages 5-10. Our Family Preservation Program provides business support and other services to families to prevent their children from having to live in an orphanage or other residential care setting as TST works to keep children in families whenever possible."

Miki said that her role is a combination of program and development work, and includes providing guidance to 32 primary school students as they adjust to the school environment, implementing appropriate supports to ensure that they are advancing academically, liaising with over 150 sponsors who support the organization’s programs, and keeping sponsors and other stakeholders updated on child and family progress. She noted, "This also includes updating our website and social media outlets to reflect and further our mission, but best of all I have plenty of time to run around with the kids!"

Miki added, "I am very grateful for the education and experience I gained at Silver School. The clinical theories and focus on cultural competence has proved invaluable not only in my current work in Tanzania but in heightening my awareness to the experience and background of others in both my professional and personal life. My study of human development and behavior with a focus on international practice encouraged and allowed me to gain the skills necessary to confront the important global issues of poverty, conflict, and mental health. In working with the very special kids here in Nkoaranga, I recognize that my experience and background is vastly different than theirs, and the knowledge and experience I gained through my coursework in Buenos Aires with the McSilver Institute encourages me to consider the many factors that drive us as individuals and societies. Most of all, I learned how to listen: to my classmates, colleagues, and the world around me in order to better advocate for those whose voices have often not been but must be heard."