Month: August 2013

Generosity and thoughtful giving….

To what extent would you go to lend a hand? I have always thought of myself as a generous person and I assume most people close to me would describe me as being generous. What does generosity mean? According to the circle of courage (tool used to determine the functioning of children in relation to their environments); a generous person embodies the following characteristics: caring, loyal, sharing, sociable and empathetic. I would also add supportive to this definition. The opposite of a generous person would be someone who is selfish, affectionless, narcissistic, antisocial and disloyal.

Having said this I have come to realize that people’s perceptions of other people’s generosity differ. When someone wants something from me then they perceive me to be the most generous person ever, until I am unable to provide the something that they need. As long as you are giving you are seen to be generous. The moment you cannot provide then you are seen as the most selfish person on the planet.

Let me tell you about me: I am a firm believer in the Bible notion that whatever a man sows that he shall also reap (Gal 6 vs 7). I do not believe in allowing people to reap benefits where they have not sown a seed. That does not make me cruel neither am I saying that only a good turn deserves another. All I am saying is that generosity sometimes has or should have a limit. A distorted sense of generosity makes someone become over- involved or play martyr. There is a form of bondage or servitude that can come from always assuming that others need to come first before you…this is when generosity becomes unhealthy.

Lets take for example relatives who only talk to you at the end of the month…first hello, how are you of the month which is quickly followed by “can you send me some money?” In what world is this supposed to be acceptable?

Now when it comes to giving to those whose circumstances speak for themselves…those who do not seek to exploit one’s generosity I say lend a hand and do not stop as long as you are able. Without opportunities to give to others human beings cannot develop into caring individuals. Give of your time, love and knowledge; it does not always have to be material things. Give to children, widows, the elderly and to any cause your heart calls you to. In that giving there is a joy that comes from knowing there is no reward expected. It can actually be to the benefit of our spiritual and social well-being.

Hope this helps you as it did me to put some thought into my giving.

These Streets…

I recently got a different view of street life as I had previously perceived it. I have come up with the conclusion that sometimes it is a choice that one makes.

I look into the face of a child who has been living in the streets for most of her adolescent life…there is a mix of vulnerability and strength. It is confusing because you want to feel sorry for her but she is so arrogant and used to protecting herself that she has a hard shell that is impossible to penetrate. She is a victim and sometimes feels powerless, but she is also a survivor .Street life means survival of the fittest…worse for the girl child. The possibility of getting raped, beaten up and harassed is doubled when you live among men in the streets. The fact that all of the people you know use substances to get through the cold night means it is difficult to find someone in the right space of mind. Anything can happen…

There are lots of reasons why a child flees from home to live on the streets. The climate of poverty in South Africa has brought with it overcrowding, violence, unemployment, physical and sexual abuse even of children. Children stay in a single room with parents and they get to witness sexual acts between parents. The hopelessness of the situation leads to alcohol and drug abuse. The cycle is unending. A child feels safer out in the streets where she can fend for herself and some think they can eat better in the streets than at home. Being in the streets means the freedom to make one’s own income through begging, stealing or prostitution and the freedom to choose what to do with that money. Sometimes that is better than staying at home with abusive parents. Some parents even use their children as a source of income in these parts, send them to go and beg so that they can bring the money to them. Fellow strollers and street people provide the sense of belonging one lacks.

I have always wondered, don’t these people have homes? But I realized some do not even want to go back. For the adult street people they probably broke all relationships with family years back that it becomes difficult to go back. Trust would have been broken. For the children it is a different story when their parents’ circumstances forced them into street life. There is no trust and anyone who tries to assist them gets rejected. Too much betrayal in their world it is hard to go back.

It is sad for me to wonder what the future holds for this child I am looking at. Is there any hope?

Women’s Day!!!

I was invited to the Church Of the Good Shepherd in Kirstenbosch Cape Town last Sunday. I was meant to give a talk in line with Women’s Day that was on 09/08/2013 and the work that I do with female street children was relevant.

Women’s day is a day that commemorates the national march of women on 09/08/1956 to petition against legislation that restricted the movement of African women. It is the day that South Africa remembers and pays homage to the women of this nation who fought against apartheid. The strength of women and girls who become women is an important theme in society. The Good Shepherd Church-Protea also holds a history as it was the people of the Protea Village worshipped until they were displaced by the Group Areas Act of 1950. Here I was standing on historic ground and being part of South African history. This was an extraordinary moment.

Having the opportunity to speak about the work that I do at Ons Plek Projects for girls was an honour. Some of the congregation are the original Proteas, there was an amazing woman aged 90. I felt young but proud to be in the presence of old age which for me means fountain of knowledge. I spoke about how the girls at Ons Plek are given hope, love and basic needs of every child such as accommodation, education and a chance to be reunified with their families( Being a social worker there for the past two years has afforded me the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of girls who need guidance and love in their lives and ensuring they become able,independent women in society, inspite of their traumatic backgrounds.

The congregation at the Church of the Good Shepherd was very welcoming and warm. The whole experience was like a trip to visit my grandmother…heartwarming!!! I was happy to give information to those who had no idea what goes on in the streets of Cape Town. Sometimes our lives are so comfortable that we forget there are those who are less fortunate than ourselves. I was happy that the church set aside a whole month to compassion ministry which allows them to hear and see where they can be of help in society. This is the work of God.

 I thank Good Shepherd Church for inviting me to come and speak on behalf of Ons Plek. I am grateful for the ladies who prayed for me to have strength in the work that I do(I needed this), for the girls to have a bright future and all the blessings they deserve. I was touched on a personal level because I realised only God can give the strength to cope in difficult circumstances, only God can give the strength to go on.

 I need more of these excursions where I get to mix with different groups of people and we unite for one common goal which is to make a difference in society.

Back to social work…

I must say when I started blogging I did not anticipate taking such a long break from my writing. This post is dedicated to explaining this lapse in MindOfASocialWorker and I am grateful for those who have missed my posts because this has spurred me back into action.

First of all let me say that it has been hard to channel the social work mind in the past couple of months. Yes I was going to work everyday and still doing social work but my blog material comes from that part of my work that pokes my creative side, that part of my work that inspires me and that has been missing. I found myself at a crossroad, having to make decisions about my career. To be honest I have been unhappy about the state of the social work profession in South Africa. The lack of recognition, the hard hitting poverty and socially demoralizing issues that you face everyday as a social worker…I will not even go into the low salary. I have felt de-motivated as yet another bunch of teenagers resorted to life back on the streets after what I presumed to be worthy interventions on my part to try and
change their lives for the better.

I have realized that I can only do so much…I can only help someone who needs to be helped and who is ready to receive the help. I went back to the basic definition of social work that I got in my first year of college which states that “social work is a profession that helps human beings to help themselves”.  At the end of it all if an individual will not help themselves you cannot help them.

At this crossroad I found myself asking questions around my future in social work. In my unhappiness I realized that I did not want to do generic social work anymore. Specializing is the way to go if I am going to have a meaningful career in social work. So I toyed with the idea of doing my Masters Degree and have spent months trying to decide what to specialize in.This new found goal has given me a new lease of life and there will be lots of studying if I qualify but I think I am ready. 

I have learnt in this period that when one door closes another one opens. I have reminded myself to never stop dreaming. There is a wise saying I came across that says “you will never see the rainbow if you never look up”.  Up meaning we constantly need to aim higher
and find ways to redefine ourselves.

So I am back and you can look forward to more MindOfASocialWorker
posts. Back on my grind*big grin*