I decided to major in social work because I have always been a people’s person. I have always taken personal joy from helping to make a difference in the lives of others. By choosing social work, I will be able to do what I love to do. Making a positive difference in the lives of others is very important to me. Many of my personal and professional values are inseparable. For example, I believe that integrity is a very important quality that one most have in order to be a great social worker, as well as a productive member of society. To me, integrity means that a person can be trusted. Social workers come in contact with very sensitive information that they must not divulge to others. In order to build a good rapport with clients, social workers must show respect for client’s confidentiality. When clients know that they can trust their worker, they will be more likely to provide information that will be helpful in making adequate assessments.
One life experience that has helped shaped my values and led me in the direction of becoming a social worker was my volunteer service at a local food bank. During this service, I had the opportunity to work mostly with older members of the community. This service made me familiar with a population that I never would have come in contact with. Most of these elderly people were predominantly from minority groups. These older people were on fixed incomes and the food bank was a great help to them. The one thing that I bothered me about the facility was that many of the elderly expressed that they felt intimidated by unfriendly staff and receptionist when they came in. They felt that some of the staff treated them with little dignity and respect because they were receiving aid. These negative experiences alone made me determined to treat all of my clients with the respect they deserve. No staff member can justify treating anyone with less than respect and quality service.
I believe the MSW program will help me to grow in the area of confidence. Through this program and field experience, I believe I will be able to develop my voice. Initially, I would never voice my opinion when I felt someone was being mistreated. Although I may have felt it was wrong, I would have never spoken out about it. However, I now know that sometimes social workers must be the voices for vulnerable victims. So, before I left my volunteer service, I did speak to one of the program supervisors about the negative connotation that some food bank workers had about the people who used the bank’s services. Upon follow-up with that supervisor, I learned that she had educated the staff about the population that they served. Staff members now had a better perception of them.
Poverty is a social problem that is close to my heart because poverty is the root of many other problems that affect society. Poverty directly affects children’s development because often children in poverty situations are in unsavory environments. These children often grow up with antisocial behaviors and less self-control when reacting to stressful situations. To me, it is obvious that the war on crime and violence begins with a war on poverty.
End of life transition is very close to my heart because of the personal experiences I have had with it. My mother worked as a nurse for hospice care and I was able to see how she cared for her clients. Death is difficult for the family and the clients. Hospice nurses help to ease the transition for the clients and their families by comforting them and helping them to make the transition with dignity. This was an eye opening revelation for me. Many people are so afraid of death that they tend to shy away from people who are dying. These people need the love and support of family all the more because it is a scary ordeal for them as well. When I was 12 years old I witnessed my aunt pass away in the care of hospice. Although I was afraid, I was comforted by the loving care that hospice nurses showed to us and my aunt. Death is such an unexpected event in most cases. A person never knows when death will occur and when it happens suddenly it makes it all the more difficult. Both my father and step-father died unexpectedly in car accidents. Working with hospice and the elderly is truly my calling. I have known this since I was 12 years old.
The experiences I have had have made me aware that often we have prejudices and biases that we are not even aware of. I was unaware that so many people view people according to their differences. I have met people who refuse to get to know someone because of their sexual orientation. After getting to know someone as a person and not as a lesbian or gay, I know that they could be friends with the person. My experience is a prime example of social justice. Providing justice for all people regardless to their differences is one of the main objectives of social workers. Consequently, social workers play an important role in society.
Through my work as a social worker I hope to break negative perceptions of people who are different by reminding people to keep an open mind. This can be done by educating others about the differences between cultures and communities. When people are aware of the differences and why some people value one thing and not another, I believe that they will be able to accept and respect the differences that we all share. Because of my experience, I will make a conscious effort to get to know people before make judgments about them. Acceptance is the foundation of a better society. Being able to accept one’s difference does not mean that you agree with the person, it just means that you understand that they are different from you.