Social Work

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What have I learned from Social Work?

A little knowledge that acts is worth infinitely more than much knowledge that is idle. - Kahil Gibran

Social work has offered me the tools to work with communities and individuals through the process of change. By standing with (beside and behind) those with whom I work, I can offer insight, support and advocacy to communities who hope to build the frameworks for change.

Social Work has taught me about the systems that inform and structure peoples lives. It has allowed me to delve deeper into feminist and anti-oppressive practice. It has asked me to develop a deeper practice of self-reflection, and has required me to become a life-long learner, dedicated to understanding the complexities and dynamics of interconnected relationships.

Social Work has taught me that social justice and sustainability can be pillars of my every day life. By bringing this awareness into how I live, I become a more active, engaged and passionate community member. Social work has offered a lens with which to see the world. I now have a deeper understanding of the connections that hold us together and the factors that drive us apart.

Social work is a collection of theories and practices that deal with individual and social change. While I have long been engaged in these processes of growth and change, I have become emboldened with new tools through my M.S.W. In particular, I have learned new ways of working with groups, how to navigate and shift social systems, and a broader understanding of how power structures impact society, groups and individuals.

Working with groups
As part of my introductory practicum,  I worked at a women’s shelter in the Upper Bow Valley, Alberta. During this time, I facilitated a healthy relationships group for women who had experienced violence at the hands of their male partners. The group collectively explored the effects of gendered violence, and the impacts of the patriarchal system on women in their own communities and around the world.  Through this local and international connection, the women began to understand that it was not ‘their’ personal behavior that had instigated violence. Instead, they recognized that violence is rooted in sexist gender roles and expectations that are placed onto women from childhood through a system of oppression. While their experiences of violence were very real, an international approach to social work helped to provide them with a larger picture and therefore to reduce the personal guilt that many of them felt. This experience taught me that an international approach to social work can serve people in a variety of situations and contexts by offering connection and a broader platform for understanding. Working with the groups also taught me how much I love being a witness of change, watching connections being made between people and facilitating insights that will ultimately shift individual lives and collective systems.

Working with social systems
In setting out to understand how to better support people through change both in Canada and abroad, I realized that knowledge of local systems can be one of the most beneficial tools that social work can provide. For this to occur however, requires an understanding of culture and society, as well as governance and process. In this way, my capacity to support change in communities was fundamentally different during my introductory practicum (in Canada) and my advanced practicum (in India). My introductory practicum, based one hour’s drive away from the house that I grew up in, had me situated in a position to provide acute social service support to individuals in crisis. I could use my knowledge of provincial and municipal services to help navigate people through the complexities of systems they may not understand but nonetheless required the services of. On the other hand, my advanced placement was based twenty hour’s away by plane, and had me situated in a cultural and...
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