What Does A Social Worker Do?

Beyond the Orphanage

Martha, is a social worker in Ethiopia, and works directly with children who have been supported by Beyond The Orphanage. We sat down with Martha to talk more about what a day in the life of a social worker really means.

What is your role and what are your responsibilities?

‘I am a Head Social Worker. Different people perceive differently what social work means. My personal view and definition is that social work surpasses beyond scientific and psychological meaning.

‘I do not find easy to describe but I define social work as a little like moulding clay. It is a process of giving shape and design to the messiness of human life. It takes the psychological and scientific skills and knowledge but also more. Our elderly fathers have got a beautiful saying “have an ear like an elephant in order to be able to listen to needs of others and have an eye like an eagle in order to see deep, the future and the present; have a heart like a lion in order to be positively bold and to give warmth to the cold feelings.” I see this as my major job and responsibility as a Head Social Worker.’

Why did you choose this job?

‘I presume I have the gut and the gift to work in the field. My profession of nursing (20 years of experience) has a concrete impact too, it taught me how to listen to others with those ‘big ears’’ and how to share the burdens of life.’

Can you describe a typical day’s work for a Social Worker?

‘To avail myself at any cost is my motto so whatever the day brings can come into my area of work. In the main my duties include:

  • Prepare a plan of action of the social work activities
  • Follow up daily tutorial classes for the children at the Drop-In Centre
  • Prepare Saturday session (facilitate guest speakers, get materials, etc.)
  • Prepare seminars and workshops to the guardians and children
  • School visit to assess academic and behavioural concerns
  • Home visits (health education; awareness creation on environmental and personal hygiene, positive family interaction, etc.)
  • Facilitate the computer class at the Drop-In Centre
  • Make an individual dialogue and facilitate volunteer professionals to provide (counseling) for any concerns that the children may encounter
  • Make medical screening and referral, consulting on minor health issues.
  • Monitoring the provision of monthly nutritional allowance
  • Monitoring the provision of school materials (uniforms, stationery, clothes, etc.)
  • Write reports on the activities and providing any essential feedback
  • An overall supervision of the use of library and awareness creation’

What does a social worker do? | Beyond The Orphanage

What are the challenges you face in your role?

‘Challenges vary depending on situations. As a social worker, I get frustrated when I experience powerlessness; when a child and his/her family are deprived of some human basic needs, nutrition such as a proper shelter and sanitation. We are working hard to help more and more children.’

Can you share a special experience from your work?

‘This is about one of our BTO children who had experienced street life. He was very reluctant to integrate with other children and found the environment strange. His school performance was very poor, and he never tried to study. He was almost a wandering boy.

‘His schoolteachers had given us a very weak report on his school performance and on his behaviour. He had gone through much pain and psychological distress in his life already. One day, about a year ago he came to BTO office very intimidated, with a sort of fear and anxiousness. He said he would like to talk to me privately. We went down to the den, a place where we do an individual sharing and listening. He said he was scared of those past years on the street and that he experienced such a scene in his dreams how his mum passed away while he cuddled her in sleep and that he was not able to wake her up in the morning. He wept and wept when he was sharing…the tear burst out and poured like a stream. It was a very difficult moment in my life, to hear a child going through such an experience alone.

‘Nevertheless, I needed that heart of a lion. I did listen to him very attentively and waited until he completed sharing his feelings. I did not say much. I just said, “you have a very bright future. The organisation works for it, you just try to focus on your studies and you will see how you will be able to gain back your confidence, we are beside you and we will support you.” His eyes were wide open and gazed at me with hope and serenity. Amazingly this boy has performed excellently in his academic results and is the top ten students in his class and the happiest boy of BTO presently.’


Is there anything you would like to say to the BTO community around the world?

‘I would like to express a big thank you to all everyone in the BTO community. You touch my heart in so many ways by giving from yours.’

You can read more about Martha’s work and our unique model of care and if you would like to reach out to support our work, we would love to hear from you.
November 25, 2016

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