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When I first started on my MA course in social work I thought this was a day for celebration by all social workers. What I never realised was that so many social workers roles and work go unrecognised and they are far too overworked, stressed and tired to celebrate. I quickly came to the realisation that social work isn't always the hands on work it consists of a lot of paperwork, this is one thing that is noted in every department and role.
The reason I applied to be a social worker was to be the person who helps make that change to a person's and families life. This can be in ways such as keeping them safe, helping them be able to live somewhere that keeps them warm and dry, ensuring they have enough food and clothing to survive and to basically meet the lowest level of the infamous Maslow's hierarchy of needs. Completing placements in several roles it was obvious that those who were seeking asylum were by far discriminated against. This led me to seeking ways I could further help those who I felt where in dire need of support.
I started volunteering and completed several visits to Calais, this gave me an insight that many people are unaware of. I stood with refugees and had teargas fired at me by French police, due to them fearing an uprise from those in camp. I helped complete assessments that would be used to support applications for asylum. Through these assessments I was given an insight into why so many people were fleeing their countries and trying to establish a safe haven for themselves until they were able to return home. Reasons for leaving, more often than not included their families being murdered, raped, in-prisoned or held hostage. People were left with no choice but to send their nearest and dearest to places they felt they could be safe. Unfortunately the cost of this is extortionate and the risks of their journey to Europe is horrific. I have frequently heard about what is referred to as the 'mafia' being a bigger threat than no food, shelter or clothing. It is known approximately 10,000 plus children have gone missing on their journey to safety. Young people I have spoken with have frequently mentioned the mafia and how they will try and take them at night.
Not surprisingly the mental health of people I have spoken would be a huge concern if they were in the U.K. However, they aren't, many doctors in Europe can only speak their own language resulting in so many people suffering daily. This work then led me to volunteering to assess host homes in the north west that could help find some suitable lodgings for refugees needing a home to stay in. Visiting a hostel in France I was made aware of how the demolition of the 'jungle' was causing even worse problems. This visit we met with approximately 10 young people who were living amongst homeless adults where many had severe addictions. The impact of this on the young people created new ways for them to deal with the traumas they had experienced, alongside the scary situation they were in.
Young males were drinking to try and blot out what their brains were trying to remember. One young person begged me to get him a doctor as he felt he couldn't cope. He was scared to close his eyes as he would get flashbacks, one significant one being the guilt of a 12 year old boy he was asked to mind, who had died during the 9 day trek across the Sahara desert, the agents had just disposed of his body on the way and this had severely impacted on him.
This led to the realisation that assessments weren't helping where most needed. The people I worked with needed the direct work that helped them find the skills to be able to continue living as healthy and safe a life as possible.
I then joined Migrant Family Action whose ethos includes providing all migrants opportunity to access the support and knowledge they need to be able to live as safe and as good a life as possible. This included those in France who have no idea what to do if they don't make it to England. I am aware that I am not a miracle worker but I wake up in the morning knowing I am doing what I can to help those most in need.
Therefore, this year on world social work day it may not be a celebration, but it should be a day for reflection and appreciation of the work that is done for others in need, as well as how we can improve it. I am going to stand proud knowing that I am representing what I feel a social worker is, simply we aren't there for the money and the fame, we are there to do the best that we can to help others live to the best that they can regardless of where they are from and the journey they have taken.