All the Learning. All the Feelings.
I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.
– Maya Angelou
As our course progresses it amazes me how close a group of strangers can become when they spend almost every waking moment with one another. The only downfall to that accelerated, and (semi) forced, closeness, is that you quickly see the many sides of every person; the beautiful, the good, the bad, and the ugly. Along with that, you quickly see the many sides of yourself; the beautiful, the good, the bad, and the ugly. It is uncomfortable and hard to acknowledge all of those sides to yourself and to own up to them. However, as important it is to understand your emotions and triggers, understanding all of your own sides and how they interact with the different sides of others is just as essential and helpful to both your personal and professional lives, and we saw that as we continued on with our time in South Africa.
After our weekend camping in the mountains, we got to strengthen and further our relationships with the South African social workers we were shadowing and working with. Going from a very personal camping trip to shadowing them in a professional setting helped me feel more comfortable in asking questions to better understand what they do and how they do it. The time we spent learning what the social workers in South Africa did was extremely valuable for me. I learned a lot more about their systems and processes, and realized that I do not know a whole lot about the same systems and processes here in the U.S. Going around and trying to find parents and families in some of the roughest townships, with only a first name at times, was an experience that I will never forget. Not only did it teach me about the hardships the children and families (many of whom live in townships) face, but it also taught me about the hardships that the social workers face on a day-to-day basis. Going into these townships without any safety protocols, not knowing what their visit could bring, all to make sure that these children are placed in safe and loving care, showed me how much these social workers care about the youth and their jobs.
As with every other part of our program, the job shadowing experience invoked a lot of different emotions in me. From court hearings, to home visits, to looking for biological parents, to intake assessments, to looking at the overwhelming amount of paperwork and case files; there were feelings of relief, joy, sadness, love, nervousness, frustration, and anxiety. Through all of the emotions and all of the learning, I think my biggest takeaway from the job shadowing part of our trip was how similar our fight for social justice and human rights are. Unfortunately, I don’t think either of our fights have really even begun, but knowing that there are beautiful souls who are fighting the same fight across the world, motivates me to continue on with the work I’m doing. I am forever grateful for all the learning and all the feelings that this trip has provided me with; I know that this will be a lifelong lesson that will continue to be incorporated into my daily personal and professional life.