Wow! Being asked ‘Why I am a social worker?’ has taken me back to when I was asked this question for the first time, 16 years ago, at my entry into social work exam at and my first year on the course. My response today is pretty much the same as it was then.
I am a social worker today because of a number of influences in my life.
I am a social worker because I learnt to listen and I developed empathy at a very early age. I was very close to my grandmother and growing up she would recall stories of her childhood: being ill-treated by a step-parent and searching for her biological mother. I imagined what life must have been like in her shoes and I think that helped me empathise with others. I was amazed by her and how, despite her experiences, she is the kindest, warmest and most forgiving person I know.
I am a social worker because of how I made sense of my own life experiences and reflected on them in understanding others.
I’m a social worker because I’ve always been interested in people. I remember being a bit of an ‘Agony Aunt’ in secondary school. Friends would talk to me about boy trouble, relationship issues with their parents or teachers. Consequently, when we had to start thinking about career choices, a friend suggest I should work for ‘lifeline’, a telephone counselling service.
I started to talk to others about my interest in people and someone mentioned social work. I didn’t know what social workers did so I started to explore that further. I consulted my family who advised me against it and advised me to find a less stressful and more financially lucrative career. It only made me more determined, I felt that if we all thought like that …
Fortunately, a friend’s aunt was a social worker and I got to help her fundraising for an older people’s home and helped at the event. Seeing her in action helped me and I could see myself doing what she did.
When I chose social work it just made sense for me, it fitted my personality and helped grow my interest in people, what motivates their behaviours and how people can change.
Many years on, I’m still very proud to be a social worker and I’m still captivated by the power of the human spirit and how people overcome difficulties in their lives. What a great privilege it is to be able to contribute to that process and make a difference.
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Anthea Anthony is Step up Practice Manager at West London Alliance.