Every year during the month of March, Canadians celebrate the contributions that social workers make to communities across our country and the considerable sacrifices they make to help the most vulnerable in our society.
As the daughter of a social worker, since I was a young girl, I have witnessed the empathy, compassion and persistence that drives the work of social workers and the tremendous impact it has on communities.
My mother, who had six children, was committed to helping others and advocating for those who were often not well equipped to advocate for themselves. 60 years ago, when it was not common for women to work outside of the home, my mom served as a social worker and a probation officer where she advocated for young boys who were headed down the wrong path.
I followed my mother’s work closely, as I considered her to be a role model and I observed several qualities that I believe all social workers embody.
Compassion – My mother’s compassion and empathy for others defined not only her work but who she was a person. I believe that is why she found so much fulfilment as a social worker. Growing up I have very clear memories of my mother bringing unmarried girls who became pregnant and assured them that they were not alone, protecting both them and their babies. She negotiated with US Aid to obtain powdered milk and thrice a week at lunch time there would be long lineups around our house of people coming to get the milk.
Persistence – Another quality that I find that many social workers embody is persistence. Some years ago, I went to Uganda and met a judge who knew my mother well. The judge remarked to me that your mother was “very persistent and convincing in keeping the young men out of jail. She would not take no for an answer. She always had an answer to my questions. She almost always managed to keep the young men out of jail and then followed through what plans she had set up for the young boys. Those boys never again come in front of me”. I know many social workers just like my mom, who don’t take no for an answer and always advocate for your clients the same way they would advocate for their own children.
Belief in humanity – Not only did my mom act as a fierce advocate for the boys she helped, she also genuinely believed in them and their ability turn their lives around. I see that quality in many social workers I meet, that belief that people are all inherently good and that they all deserve justice, fairness and equal opportunity.
This National Social Work Month, let us recognize the valuable contributions made by social workers each and every day. Social workers lead change. Their contributions to society and the impact they have on people, their communities, and Canada is immeasurable.