You need more than 'heart'

You need more than 'heart'

Many see them as problem-solving agents, whose mission is to help the poor and destitute in society. But this social worker confesses that he often feels helpless in the face of other people's pain and vulnerability.

Finding a job for an unemployed client or housing for someone without a place to stay is easy, when put against the deeper issues of life, says Paul.

He asks that we do not reveal his real name or place of work as the social work scene here is small. Plus, revealing explicit details of the cases he takes on is prohibited, he adds. And he could lose his job as a result.

But he decided to speak to The New Paper on Sunday for this column to try to shed light on the struggles that social workers have to contend with.

His clients face a range of issues, including financial difficulty, mood disorders, family conflict or loss of jobs.

"I had a client who came in because she needed help to resolve housing issues; but what she was really stuck with was coming to terms with the loss of her husband, who was the breadwinner.

"Another needed help for a referral for her mother, who had dementia. But in our first session together, she cried and wailed so hard for two hours that after the session, she had no impression of me being in the room with her.

"It was the pain of seeing her own mother's mental faculty degenerate and as a result, call her terrible names because her mum couldn't remember who she was any more," he says, speaking of his experience working at a family service centre here.

"I think some of these pains have no solutions," he admits.

He tries to be constructive about it though.

"Confronted with our clients' despair, if we are able to join them in the dark places, slowly we can find the light together," says the articulate 20-something, who has been in this line between five and 10 years.

The biggest misconception people have about the job is that "all you need is heart", he adds.

Empathy is the cornerstone of the work, but it is far from enough, he declares.

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