It is with great sadness that we bid farewell to Catherine Chuard, who died on the 19th of August 2010 at the age of 79 years.
Catherine Chuard was the Secretary General of the International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW) between 1972 and 1975. After her qualification as a social worker at the School of Social Work in Zurich, she worked at the social service of the municipality of Langnau (Switzerland). In addition, she was always involved in the work of national federations’ and associations’ commissions and boards. In the 1960’s Catherine Chuard was appointed by the Swiss government to represent Switzerland in the UN commissions dealing with social issues. At the same time as she was the Swiss UN representative, Catherine Chuard was also active as President of the Swiss Professional Association of Social Workers (SBS).
As President of the SBS, her multilingual skills and her profound knowledge of social issues seemed inevitably to lead her to become a board member representing Switzerland in IFSW and later to serve as Secretary General of the Federation. She carried this job to the great satisfaction of the 12 national professional organisations being members of IFSW at that time. Her main objective was to motivate social workers in all countries to form professional organisations in those countries where the profession was not represented in a national association. The IFSW resources were modest at that time. Catherine Chuard often spoke about the challenge of fitting a small desk, a chair, a typewriter and a telephone into her home-based office, at a time when few people worked from home. Her home quickly became a hotel hosting social workers from all over the world. In 1975, she passed on the IFSW Secretariat to Andrew Mouravieff-Apostol in order to take care of her husband, in whom the first signs of a long illness had been recognized. Since then she became increasingly less involved in public life, but remained committed to her beloved profession for example by being engaged in the visiting service running by the Reformed church community. Her credo was: “Social workers must be present in everyday life and close to the people in need of their support. They should serve, be on a par with the affected people, work with the mind, but never forget the heart! ”
Ellen Mouravieff- Apostol honours Catherine Chuard “as an exceptional personality who preceded the late Andrew Mouravieff-Apostol at the helm of the IFSW Secretariat from 1972 to 1975. As a valued member of the Executive Committee, then still rooted in the US, Catherine Chuard had the mission to move the IFSW headquarters to her home in a Swiss village, and from there she spread her wings to new Social Work organisations in many countries worldwide. At the time, my contact with her was rare, but I was always aware of her personality and outstanding qualities of integrity, intelligence and hard work. Only in the latter years did I meet her again and come to know her and her engagement with and for people of all kinds.”
Catherine Chuard’s courage and charm will remain with us, as well as her renowned knowledge and deep commitment to all who loved and needed her.