Social Work & Community Development

Why Social Workers are Important in Healing Communities

Sep 15, 2021 | By Saranne Durham
Why Social Workers are Important in Healing Communities

Community Social Workers focus on helping communities to function better. They work on a number of levels, with individuals, groups and clubs, as well as the community as a whole. Specifically, they seek to nurture and strengthen relationships so as to create healthy, strong inter-community ties. This is to assist a community to be functional and able to maximise resources for the good of all its members. Which also means that they work at establishing and maintaining a viable relationship between community and government structures.

Traits of Community Social Workers

Being a social worker is about having a calling to change lives for the better. It’s not an easy path, as it requires you to work at the coalface of much hurt. While you actively seek ways to help people and communities heal. However, it also means you are part of celebrating triumphs and joyful moments within a community.

“A Social Worker experiences a communities pain as well as joy.”

At its essence this vocation focuses on establishing and maintaining an environment which helps people flourish. Thus, a community social worker is someone who takes initiative and can make tough decisions. They like to solve problems and are lateral thinkers, who enjoy being around people. Having a compassionate, kind heart is also a key trait of a Community Social Worker.

What does a typical workday look like?

Being a social worker will draw upon your mental, emotional, spiritual and physical capacity. Your work will engage you in a way that grows and challenges you, as you find solutions to people’s challenges. A typical day will be varied and while there may be a research component to the work, it is primarily a “people job”.

How many focuses an individual social worker has can be dependent on if they work within a team or not. Within their day they could be involved in:

  • Policy development and rollout.
  • Community development and reconciliation.
  • Family guidance and healing.
  • Establishing, registering, overseeing and assisting with service points eg: Safe havens for violence and abuse survivors.
  • Screening then linking people to services eg: Mental Health.
  • Providing advice and guidance eg: On rights or the legal system.
  • Gerontology Assistance (old age, the process of ageing, and the particular challenges faced by old people).

“A Social Worker is solution orientated.”

Why are Community Social Workers Integral to Healing?

A community social worker’s work is closely interwoven with the community’s daily happenings. Thus, they are party to seeing as well as understanding it’s unique dynamics. Due to this, they are ideally placed to be able to see what decisions need to be made and why. Drawing on their training and experience enables them to implement decisions. It also helps them to encourage people to persevere with making and sustaining change within their own lives and their community.

In a Community

While short term solutions and changes are actively sought, a social worker works within the long run. Which means that they are able to bring about actual sustainable reconciliation within a community. This is possible because they ideally have both resources and time to unpack challenges and help a community find their own solutions to their problems. When people are involved and able to take ownership of decisions it leads to greater success rates of solving issues.

Reconciling people with other community members, so as to create awareness of others within the community, is an important factor of reknitting and healing a hurting community. By being a coordinator and an unbiased voice of reason, a social worker can assist with finding compromise and highlighting people’s similarities. For example, a desire to have a good school or a working crime combating solution.

For Individuals and Families

No one is an island and able to exist without others. This means that in order to heal a community, addressing individual hurts and family challenges is a need. It may mean mobilising and linking people to resources or settling disputes. It could also require tough decisions. Such as assisting those in distress to move to safe havens or even start legal proceedings against someone. By supporting a community to work together, they create an environment where people are able to be more caring of each other. Therefore, ideally over time individuals and families gain support from within their own community, thereby requiring less assistance from external resources. In the long run this is more sustainable. Especially within a social resource strapped environment like South Africa; which as a result has a shortage of social workers.

“Healing communities means addressing individuals challenges.”

How to become a Social Worker

If you have the traits of a social worker and want to become one, there are education requirements to do so. As with most Bachelor Degrees, a National Senior Certificate (NSC) is necessary. Within your NSC qualification you need to have English, a second South African language as well as mathematics.

Qualifying as a Social Worker through SACAP

SACAP (The South African College of Applied Psychology) offers an accredited Bachelor of Social Work which leads to registration with the South African Council for Social Services Professions (SACSSP). Contact an advisor today or click here to register.

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