Seeing people and all they bring

March 29, 2016

March is National Social Work Month 

One of the first programs ever offered at the university, social work has a long history at MacEwan. A lot has changed in the more than four decades since the first students graduated from the then Social Service Technician program, including a new Bachelor of Social Work program that will accept its first students in Fall 2016.

In recognition of National Social Work Month, we’re sharing a few stories from the people who are both teaching and working to become the next generation of social workers.

IMAGE_STORY_SANDRA_ALTON_1The people in my classes won’t tolerate injustice. They see the disparity in the world and aren’t willing to believe that’s just the way it is. They speak up. They’re not choosing this profession because they’re going to make a lot of money or have a lot of status. They’re in it for very heartfelt reasons.

For a long time, social workers were seen as control agents—people who gave money or took kids. That’s not who we are.

We walk side by side with people. We don’t see them as flawed or broken. Instead, we help them access services so they can see their own resiliency and know their own strengths.

The people who graduate from our program go out into the world understanding the importance of seeing people and all they bring. They want to serve our community well. They want change.

I struggle with many things, but one thing I know for certain is that the creativity and passion I see in our young people is going to serve our world really well. And that gives me hope.

—Sandra Alton, assistant professor, Social Work

IMAGE_STORY_FAYE_HAMILTON_1I spent 14 years working in child protection. I loved that job, but I also saw social workers struggle with the trauma they worked alongside every day.

If you’re going to be a social worker, then you’re going to be exposed to trauma. It’s inevitable. My research is about preparing students to work beside that trauma. And it affects everyone differently, in both positive and negative ways.

If we know that people are going to struggle at times, then we need to look at how we can prepare and support them in building vicarious resilience, finding satisfaction in their work and learning to seek out help when they need it.

Social work is difficult, but it’s also incredibly important. When you’re in this field, every single day matters. There’s nothing vague about it.

I love practicing social work and teaching it. There’s something about being connected to the beginning of someone's journey—watching them realize that this is their world, that social work is who they are, that they’re not a lone voice. It’s a really heartfelt thing.

—Faye Hamilton, faculty member, Social Work

IMAGE_STORY_DORSA_1In Iran, I was a human rights activist working with battered women and minorities. That’s how I got into trouble. I was in the street taking signatures, holding workshops and meetings, and going to officials asking for change around these issues. It was nothing really huge, but I was also a member of the religious minority, and that brought a lot of attention on me. I got arrested once and was sentenced to one year in prison. I was 20 years old.

In appellate court, they delayed my sentence for five years and said I wouldn’t go to prison if I didn’t do anything else in that time. When I came out of prison, it was really beautiful. There were so many people waiting outside—relatives, friends, neighbours and others who had nothing in common with me, but knew I was trying to do something positive and wanted to show their support.

A few months later, I found myself in trouble again, so I ran with my family to Turkey and eventually came to Canada as a refugee.

Last summer, I went back to Turkey for two weeks and used many of the things I learned in my first year of Social Work to offer workshops around human rights. It was incredible to learn something and then be able to use that knowledge to give back.

As a refugee and an immigrant, I have seen some of the gaps in the system and I decided that I should be the person to help fix them. I want to get my master’s in social work and eventually work with refugees in some way.

—Dorsa, 2nd year, Social Work diploma

This story is part of our Portraits of MacEwan series where students, faculty and staff share snapshots of their lives with the university community.

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