Kevin helps rebuild Iraq

IT'S a long way from the quiet peace of Ipswich's new university campus to the strife-filled cities of Iraq, but it is a journey social work expert Kevin Pettican makes every year.

IT'S a long way from the quiet peace of Ipswich's new university campus to the strife-filled cities of Iraq, but it is a journey social work expert Kevin Pettican makes every year.

The principal of the new University Campus Suffolk's social work department has been to the northern Iraqi cities of Erbil and Sulaymaniyah to teach Iraqi social workers how to develop child protection policies.

And in the three years he has been visiting the country he has found his visits have become a real adventure.

He said: “Every time I go there I have used a different route, and it is really quite an adventure.

“The first time I went was to Erbil in August three years ago - and the temperatures were up to 40 degrees which really hit me.

“I had to travel to Turkey and then get a taxi ride through the mountains. We had to wait about five hours to get through the border post between the countries.

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“Things are a bit better now. Last time I flew from Frankfurt - but it is not an easy place to get to,” he added.

Mr Pettican, 59, who lives in Saxmundham, said he was aware of the risks he took during his visits to Iraq.

He said: “You have to go everywhere accompanied by guards for protection and there is a constant fear of explosions - but the work is worthwhile.

“I'm not there to impose our style of social work on the country, but I am trying to help them set up their own systems of child protection.”

Mr Pettican has lectured in several countries throughout Europe under the Erasmus initiative - and it was through this that he was first invited to Iraq.

He said: “When I got the call about this, I really thought it was an April Fool joke - but a few months later I was on my way.”

He recently presented a paper on “Social Work Education in northern Iraq” at the International Health and Social Work Conference held in Tikkurila, Finland.

The conference was held at Laurea University, in Tikkurila, Finland, which was attended by 200 delegates from countries across the European Union and from as far a field as Japan and America.

“That gave me the chance to explain what is happening in Iraq to professionals from across the world,” he said.