Connecting local responses around the world
The grand-uncle of 2 children aged 11 and 9 years old immediately took them into his home when he realised that their mother had much difficulty caring for them. “I will definitely have strong words for her when we meet the next time but for now, the children’s well-being come first” he told us. Mother spends most of her time with 3 younger children and these 2 children often have too much time on their own. The tough talking aside, this grand uncle shared that he has no hesitation helping out because the children’s mother had housed him many years ago when he was homeless. Today, it appears that he is experiencing more stability than his niece and so he believes it is only right to return the kindness. In any case, they are family and he values their relationship.
Such support among relatives may not be as consistent as that provided by helping professionals but it has the advantage of bringing about mutual help and the strengthening of loose ties among people. When the dust settles, it will be obvious to mother that her uncle cares and she should find a way to show her appreciation. Such a relationship is rooted in the values and traditions of family and community and social work must find a way of actively supporting these values and traditions. This is hard work and it seems easier to declare that family and community are inadequate and professional helping systems need to step in for children and other vulnerable people. So going forward, what could a vision for social work look like? Is it one where the work leads to strong families and communities or one of massive professional helping systems whose growth is spurred by the ever-increasing complexity of inadequate families and communities? Perhaps in the social service sector, growth is not necessarily good news and less is more.
The positive emotions and experiences from last Friday’s Celebration in the Community still linger with me. Several young people between 20 to 25 years old came up to me and other colleagues simply to say hello. They had previously attended our programmes and while some got into trouble with the law after they left us, they are now feeling rather positive about themselves. One young man told me it was good to see us being there for others in his neighbourhood and he will arrange a gathering of all the “old boys” for old times’ sake and to see how they could volunteer. It will be some time before that gathering happens as many are in National Service but some of these old boys who are not, started volunteering this week. They were most energetic as together with other residents and some volunteers from various corporations, they efficiently repacked 526 cartons of food into packets and distributed them to the households in their neighbourhood. These food packets were donations from the public to the Sharity Gift Box last Christmas.
This annual food distribution exercise across 5 neighbourhoods ends tomorrow and it is usually quite messy and exhausting but somehow, it feels like a breeze this year. It is a breeze because it does not feel like work but rather like a gathering of friends doing the right thing for our neighbours. Jean Louis Lamboray who was present at the celebration shared that the event reminded him of the Congolese proverb "When people celebrate, some serious matter is being handled." I can see how that’s true.
Enjoy your weekend.
Share our similarities, celebrate our differences. - M. Scott Peck