“Auntie Getrude”

Family quote (from the web)

This has become my new name ever since I became a social worker in residential care.  It is funny how the
work done with children makes one slip into a role they never thought they could slip into. Growing up and whilst doing my four year degree in social work I never thought I would one day be called ‘Aunty Getrude’ unless one of my siblings gives birth to a child. I still laugh to myself when I think about it.

During the first days I found it disconcerting to have to answer to my name paired with an auntie. It made me feel a little bit old because the children I work with are between the ages of 0-18. Especially with the girls in their late teens I still find it weird since we are just a few years apart.  I needed to understand why I could not just be called by my name. I then found out it was an issue of respect and so that the children do not get too familiar with you that they treat you like they would their peer.  I also realized with pride that my degree puts me into a position of respect regardless of my age. So I had to get used to it…

But then I really dag deeper into the meaning of “auntie” in a children’s home. When working with vulnerable children some of them come from traumatic pasts and experienced betrayal by their own families. One needs to be careful in dealing with them.  If for example when the children relate to a worker and form a relationship based on trust and mutual
understanding, it is so easy for attachment to form. Imagine if a child who has lost her biological mother or whose mother abandoned her at birth starts calling you “mummy”???? That would definitely change the dynamics because there is a certain role and expectation that comes with that name. It also becomes hard upon termination to leave a child who has gotten attached to you as a “mother”. This puts a huge responsibility on one’s shoulders and blurs the lines of professionalism. Also one does not want to replace real parents in social work; you help children rebuild their lives with the hopes of reunification with their real families where possible. So it is better not to confuse the children into thinking wherever they go they can get new “mummies”.

So “aunty” for me became the most neutral name one can adopt when working with children. It means I am here for you; I care for you even though I am not part of your biological family. “You can call me aunty”!!! I have experienced that the children too find it easier to call a stranger “auntie” when they are introduced to them the first time.

I love being “Auntie Getrude” because it shows I have a role to play in these children’s lives. My relationship with them is not superficial but it is also not trying to take the place of the real relatives in their lives. They always have to be reminded that even though they are in a care facility they still have their own families who might or might not care for them but they exist. Here are a few quotes I found on family :

To us, family means putting your arms around each other and being there ~Barbara Bush

Having a place to go – is a home. Having someone to love is a family. Having both is a blessing ~Donna Hedges.

Change Yo Look, Change Yo Mind!!

far view

Art

Today was a good day at the workplace. Recently our humble children’s home
got a donation to have a revamp of our look. A renowned artist known
as Faith47 (this is how she prefers to be known)joined in the project
with some stakeholders and the charitable donor, a well known
designer whom I will not name since I did not get rights to do so.

Our home for female girls whom we are trying to get off the streets  has
been turned into a beautiful art form making part of the Fringe
District in Cape Town. It was a proud moment to open the house to
visitors and friends and share our new look. I wore my perfect smile
greeting and welcoming visitors at the gate. The girls also took part
taking the visitors on a tour of the house including the offices and
the rooms. The courtyard has been painted with fresh summer colours
of green and a soft yellow and there is a wonderful transformation.

The artwork on the wall of the building for me represents hope, struggle,
strength and really moving on with life. And this is true of the work
that the social workers, child care workers and staff of the home
provide for these children. It is a home away from home, giving them
a new lease of life and paving a brighter future. I feel blessed to
have been there to experience this. Seeing the girls experiencing
this transformation has also been a source of great joy for me.

What’s in a change of look? Just like in our everyday lives if you improve
the décor in your house or change colours it brings a sense of
novelty and newness that every human being needs to experience in
order to feel human. It gives new meaning to one’s life and some
start to reorganise their mindset as well to suit the new
environment. I hope this is the same for the children I work with.
After going through so much dullness, ache and trauma they need some
sunshine and brightness in their lives. I hope the novelty never
wears off….

A lot of different meanings and symbolisms can be derived from the
painting on our wall. It means different things to different people,
if you are reading this I wonder what meaning you would put on the
painting I have shown. Let me know….

You cannot heal thyself…..

 

I returned from my leave yesterday, well rested but a bit of a wounded soul. My weekend away did not go as planned, which goes to show that as humans we can only plan our lives so far and God really just does His will. I will not go into much detail but as I write I am nursing a semi-broken heart because my long awaited leave turned into a separation between two hearts and the end of a friendship. It was not planned but everything happens for a reason, like how do you plan not to be happy? How can one choose sadness over happiness? How can one choose loneliness over companionship? Sometimes, when there are irreconcilable differences this happens and I am sad to accept that it has happened to me.

 

Image result for broken heart
Image from pexels.com

 

 

 In my work, every day I tell my clients to hold on, be strong; to fight for their relationships and rebuild those broken bridges. But when the same dynamics take place in my own life, I cannot take my own advice. 

I cannot sit Getty(myself) down and reflect on feelings of despair or sadness, feelings of loss or wasted time. Granted, I can give myself a pep-talk in front of the mirror everyday and really one has to. But I cannot heal my own pain. As a social worker, the theories and principles governing my everyday work involve helping others to help themselves. But, when I am emotionally scarred, I cannot use the same concepts for myself. This leaves me at a loss because I spend so much time dealing with other people’s emotions but when it comes to my own, I feel numb.

Writing is my escape, my silent counselor. I get to explore my emotions as I write and it does provide some relief. At work the same smile I wore before I went on my vacation is the same one they saw today, always the professional. Yes, I have mastered the meaning of being there for others even as your own heart is breaking. The client needs not know that you also have problems today. They are personal. I’m sure it is true for all professionals across the board, even outside social work. We all have problems but the clients’ problem come first.

I may be down but I’m not out. I still do what I do with my all, for the love of social work. My personal life needs a bit of work right now which I’m willing to put in. In all this, God never does things by coincidence, there is a reason and a season for all things. So all is well.

Till next time…

GG

Social Worker Goes on Leave

I finally gathered the courage to take some few days leave. I think I am a bit of a workaholic, I always find a reason to go to work. Or maybe that just means I love my job that much. Let me explain….

When something is your calling like social work is to me, your whole life sort of revolves around it. I get a sense of responsibility to my clients that makes it hard for me to imagine a day without showing up. At the children’s home I am working at now, my clients are teenage girls who drive me crazy with their moods but these girls have become my friends.Yes, this sounds unhealthy, like I am an over involved social worker who cannot disconnect from work. But I am actually just committed and I will not skip work unless I really have to.

So now was the time that I felt I really needed a break, my last leave was in June this year (5 months ago) and since then I have been working non-stop. So I am on leave again and loving it.

The challenge? What to do with my time and trying not to think about work or that thing I should be doing if I was at the office. I am still working out my schedule. Its a good thing I booked a trip out to see my significant other and that should keep me occupied. I am going to see if the social worker can switch off and think of other things besides social work…(LOL!! I am already blogging about social work on day 1 of my leave so yes it will be a bit tricky). Maybe I will do some sight-seeing and take a few pictures, spend time with loved ones and basically just relax. Unfortunately the weather is terrible in Pietermaritzburg and I might be home bound for a while, hope the heavens hear my plea and bring some sunshine.

Social Worker on leave is trying not to think social work!!!! But as long as the world is full of people there will be social work. One never stops trying to make a difference.  But until I am back to work this is ME TIME!! First stop, breakfast for one!!!

I am in control

You stay in control

I was lazing around on the Internet and i came across the above quote from my favourite author Paulo Coelho,  i thought to share. I am a firm believer in the notion that I control my own destiny and this quote affirmed that for me. At times when we feel down and out it is so easy to feel like we are no longer in control. Then we surrender to “fate”and that means we are basically saying whatever happens happens. I feel this is taking the easy way out…this is surrendering responsibility of our lives to an unknown force,then we sit back and do nothing. That way we don’t have the blame if something goes wrong….mmmh wouldn’t that be nice. To just blame fate for everything….

Well I am learning everyday that I am responsible for my thoughts which in turn inform my actions. Yes in some way our lives are predestined, but our everyday actions make us who we are and we actually might not get to our destiny if we keep making wrong decisions. So its my choice to decide what is happening to me, my choice to decide whether I like that situation or not and then my choice to leave or stay in that situation. It is my choice to decide to do the right thing, to choose the left turn and not the right. Look at it this way, you might get lost but then you went on an adventure trying to find your way. A chance to learn.

I remain in control….I like knowing that I chose this path and I can answer for it. Surrendering to ‘”fate”means not being able to explain how it happened. I guess I am a control freak in that aspect.

So thanks to Paulo for the above quote and for reminding me that I shape my own destiny. This means my circumstances do not define me, do not cripple me because I can take steps to change them. If  you are not happy with a situation do something to change it and if you cannot change it pray for the serenity to accept it. Life is an everyday challenge but for someone who loves challenges I say bring it on….

Dress Code….None!!!

Today was not a good day for social work. It was windy and cold, another Cape Town moody day. Really when is this weather going to turn around?? It is October for crying out loud. Anyway it got me thinking do social workers really have a dress code??? I was standing by my wardrobe debating whether to wear tights or thick socks but whatever i was going to choose needed to go with flat shoes!!!

In the end i settled for a plain pair of black pants, red top and matching jacket. I chose a pair of socks to keep out the cold and wore my favorite pair of flat pumps. Does not sound glamorous does it??? Well in my day i have come to appreciate the value of flat shoes….if you recall my article “A day in the life” you would remember that I am often chasing down moody teenagers and trying to put out fires (sometimes literally),… well in this case I mean stop fights. So high heels stopped making sense to me. Besides being office bound all day really makes one choose a more laid back wardrobe.

I love to see social workers who come for meetings or those I meet on the off-chance that I have to run to the Children’s Court, all dolled up in their matching outfits and killer heels. However most social workers are very practical in their dress sense. Its funny that before I became a social worker I pictured social workers as the conservative types who wear practical court shoes and spectacles. Looking all serious and business-like. Then I became one and realised its an old stereotype and today’s social workers are young and hip… mostly well dressed and fashionable. And yet they remain business-like and are also taken seriously.

I believe one’s appearance is the first impression people are going to get from you!! So even if I cannot wear heels everyday I try to look fashionable in flats and still wear some make-up. Not to forget that dazzling smile one greets clients with everyday….our smiles adorn us more than our clothes can ever manage to do.

So in a nutshell social work does not have a dress code. I wear what is comfortable and practical yet still fashionable. As long as one remains professional…not showing tattoos or wearing extremely revealing clothes to maintain the dignity of the profession. And I might add tattoos in an environment with young impressionable adolescents need to stay covered, next thing you will see them with identical ones. I speak from experience because once I had a child copy my hairstyle and dress style to the last dimension, we looked like twins. Lucky it was a good image,not a bad one.

Stay sassy!!!!

Comfy is always best

Be Like an Eagle…Fly high and Grab your dreams

Soar Like an Eagle

Do you ever feel disconnected??Like you are on to something, you have an idea but somehow its not connecting with your life? But the idea keeps coming back forcing you to question where you stand.

I have often felt this way, in fact i feel it right now. I sometimes get the feeling that i should be doing something with my life, something more than what I am doing. Does this make me sound dissatisfied?? I have a fountain of ideas and granted if i were to act on all of them I would probably be crazy or on the flipside I would have made necessary changes in my career life or personal life. So how does one know their purpose or whether they have reached a certain point in their lives??

I know I was born to soar, I have an eagle spirit and I just want to spread my wings and fly as high as I can. So when opportunities present themselves I often jump at them, im full of ideas, i lose sleep planning and jotting down only to wake up with a more realistic stance that ok maybe not. So what is that voice? The voice of reason or im being a coward at times??? Realising your own limitations is not exactly cowardice but I wonder what is the worst that could happen if i just try putting this one idea into action???

I know i am currently in social work but my personal ambition tells me this will not be enough until I can specialise on a particular field,become a specialist in one thing not everything and then do that to the best of my ability. What does this entail, STUDY!!!! Ok so yes I am ambitious and I want to study further and go into private practise, make social work my business. Or take it to developmental standards and open an NGO.

Bottom line there is no limit to what one can dream of becoming. It is what one does when that idea comes. Am I ready to take action or am I waiting by to allow someone to hand me something that will change my life? i have seen in my short life….26 years now, that this does not happen often. If you want something go out there and get it. But first know what it is you want, it makes it easier.

So lesson for today: be like an eagle. Soar as high above the ground as you can, scan the earth for what you want and go in to grab it….Have the confidence to go for your dreams.

DOnt be scared to grab what u want
Go in for the kill....