Some people spend years searching for their inner calling. Others express their essence from early on and pursue the pleasure it brings as a hobby or side gig. The lucky few observe their inner calling wholeheartedly and weave it into their personal and professional lives, crafting their own unique tapestry. An expression of their purpose and joy.
Living the dream
26-year-old Talya Gottlieb from Johannesburg epitomises the latter. As a child she dreamt of becoming a social worker. Today she is living her dream. Talya is a community development social worker at Chevrah Kadisha, the largest Jewish welfare organisation on the African continent.
She is also a part-time student and is currently studying towards her Master of Social Science in Community Mental Health Promotion at SACAP. As part of the first cohort to study the programme online, we asked her to share her thoughts on her virtual-learning experience so far. This is what she has to say…
A call to serve
Talya has always wanted to work in psychology. “I’m driven by an innate passion to make a meaningful impact on the lives of individuals and communities,” she explains. “Social workers play a pivotal role in addressing societal challenges, supporting vulnerable populations, and advocating for social justice. These aspects resonate profoundly with me.”
“Through the power of empathy, compassion, and effective intervention, we can help those in need overcome adversity,” Talya says. “I see social work as the pathway to transforming lives, empowering individuals, and fostering positive change in our world.”
A splash of serendipity
Talya completed her Bachelor of Social Work at the University of the Witwatersrand in 2019. Motivated by a longstanding aspiration to further her education, she inquired about potential master’s programmes at SACAP in 2022.
“I reached out to a former lecturer of mine, Dr Poppy Masinga, Head of Faculty – Social Work & Community Development at SACAP,” Talya recalls. “She recommended I apply for the Master of Social Science in Community Mental Health Promotion.”
Fortunately, the course aligned seamlessly with Talya’s personal and professional interests, she says. What’s more, she was transitioning into a community development role at work, making the decision to enrol at SACAP feel serendipitous.
“Registering at a psychology college alongside a social work background allows for a more comprehensive approach to addressing complex social issues,” Talya says. “I enrolled at SACAP because of its sterling reputation for providing a comprehensive and experiential education in the field of psychology. I want to equip myself with a broader skill set and a deeper understanding of human behaviour and mental health, enhancing my effectiveness in the field.”
“SACAP was a clear choice for my educational journey,” she adds. “Its academic excellence, focus on real-world application, and the synergy between programme offerings and my career goals were compelling.”
“SACAP’s commitment to practical, hands-on learning and its emphasis on preparing students to excel in real-world settings truly stood out for me,” Talya continues. “The opportunity to study within a diverse and inclusive learning environment, where I could engage with an array of perspectives, was also an enticing factor.”
Fortunately, Talya was able to secure a scholarship for her course. “I submitted an academic writing sample along with two referee reports, she says. “Meeting a minimum academic requirement of holding a bachelor’s degree with over 65% was essential to be considered for shortlisting.”
Talya also took part in a series of interviews. “I was asked about my understanding of community mental health promotion and how I planned to contribute to the field. All while balancing my personal and professional commitments,” she says. “I expressed my ambition and commitment to excel as a student and a professional. I pledged to make SACAP proud, promote the institution, act as a brand ambassador, and be available as a guest speaker whenever needed.”
The decision was subject to discussions by the board and financial team. “I was delighted to receive a call from SACAP a week later announcing that I had been awarded the scholarship!” Talya exclaims.
Virtual reality rewards
As part of the first cohort to study the Master of Social Science in Community Mental Health Promotion online, Talya says she’s enjoying the experience. “Studying online has been truly enriching.”
“Surprisingly, I’ve discovered a passion for virtual learning,” she adds. “It not only challenges me but also grants the flexibility to set my own schedule and maintain my dedication to my full-time job. Enabling me to work, learn and grow at the same time.”
The Community-Based Participatory Action Research Project module is a popular component of Talya’s course. We asked her why she thinks it’s so coveted by students. “It’s enticing for several reasons,” she says. “Firstly, it offers students a unique opportunity to directly engage with real-world communities and address their pressing issues. This practical experience is invaluable for those seeking hands-on, impactful learning.”
“Secondly, the module aligns with the increasing demand for community-focused and socially relevant research. It equips students with the skills and knowledge to conduct research that truly makes a difference in people’s lives. This really appeals to those passionate about social change.”
“Furthermore,” Talya adds, “the module fosters collaboration and cooperation between students, educators, and community members, creating a dynamic learning environment. Emphasis on teamwork and community involvement enriches the educational experience and mirrors the principles of social work and community development.”
Talya has remained true to her calling and hopes to continue pursuing it wholeheartedly on her path to success. What does she hope the future holds for her? “I anticipate continuing my journey as a community development social worker, and delivering community talks in addition to organizing them,” she says. “I hope to be recognized as a resource for working with vulnerable communities. Ready to be called upon to make a meaningful impact where it is most needed.”
How about you? What have you set your sights on accomplishing three to five years from now? Perhaps it’s time you listened to your innate calling, too. SACAP offers a wide range of courses that could help ignite your inner fire into full-hearted expression.
Want to expand your skill set and make a positive impact like Talya? You can with SACAP. Find out more here.