For the love of others
“As a front-line case worker, I meet many clients who are estranged from their families…. I love the process of knowing them and their unique life history…. It helps to inform my individual advocacy on their behalf. Expanding support networks for them after these efforts is the moment when I feel most rewarded in my work.”
March 28, 2019
Whether it’s responding to a crisis or helping people change their lives and communities, social service workers are often working behind the scenes to provide care and support.
In celebration of National Social Work Month, Social Work Week and World Social Work Day in March, we checked in with three Seneca grads working at Dixon Hall, one of the oldest and largest multi-service agencies in Toronto.
Candace Baldwin, Aiko Ito and Caryn Yuz all graduated from Seneca’s community and social services programs. All three support seniors, the fastest-growing age group in the province. Below, they describe in their own words what inspired them to pursue a career in social service, how Seneca prepared them for their work and what they feel is most rewarding about it.
Co-ordinator, Alzheimer Day and Respite Care programs, Dixon Hall
Social Service Worker – Gerontology
I was a teenager when my granny developed Alzheimer’s disease. Back then, we were unaware of the condition and why granny did the things she did. More than once, she ran away from home. Ironically, the year she passed away was the year I graduated from Seneca. She finished her work on earth as I was about to start my career.
I loved the program at Seneca. I was like a sponge absorbing all the information. One of the most key experiences for me was the field work practicum, which allowed me to apply the theory I learned in class. Everything I learned at Seneca, I’ve experienced in my years of work. The program has not only prepared me in establishing my livelihood, but it equipped me in supporting my own parents as they age.
I enjoy having one-to-one interactions with our program members and their families. I enjoy going to their homes, collecting data on their history and establishing the rapport and trust. My contact with caregivers is at a point when they are reaching burnout. In some cases, they just need a listener. I love seeing the members daily. Some of them will not remember my name, but they’ll associate my face as someone they recognize and trust. And bringing a smile of recognition to their face brings me joy.
Client Intervention Worker, Seniors Department, Dixon Hall
Social Service Worker – Immigrants and Refugees
When I first came to this country, social services were new and totally “Canadian” to me. My parents had always taught me that it was shameful to ask for something or express my personal desires, especially if you are a woman. My Canadian-born daughters changed that. I started seeking resources for them in the community. That was when I became excited about social work as a career.
My professors at Seneca were great teachers and mentors. They supported me when I felt vulnerable as a minority student. Seneca gave me the mentorship, friendship and career opportunities I needed to live here and contribute to the society. I grew the most when I shared classes with students from other Social Service Worker streams. That fostered my skills to work in diverse environments. What I learned at Seneca still informs my practice today.
As a front-line case worker, I meet many clients who are estranged from their families and the communities they grew up in. They face challenges in functioning at home and some are at risk of losing housing. I love the process of knowing them and their unique life history. I see the continuum of their life history intermixed with their mental, physical, social and current housing challenges. It helps to inform my individual advocacy on their behalf. Expanding support networks for them after these efforts is the moment I feel most rewarded in my work.
Manager, Community Programs, Seniors Department, Dixon Hall
Social Service Worker – Gerontology
I had a close relationship with my grandmother. She was a big part of my life. I was always around seniors — my grandmother and her friends — and I always enjoyed working with them. Even though I was 18 years old at the time, it just felt like a natural fit for me. It wasn’t just that it was fulfilling, I felt like it was my calling.
I wanted to be in a helping profession and the community field placement component at Seneca spoke to me. The professors were great and they wanted to help you plan your career by trying to connect you with the right placement. They wanted you to get the most out of your experience and prepare you for the workforce. Through Seneca, I got to understand the aging process and how it impacts each individual differently.
I now oversee 10 different programs geared to helping seniors live independent lives in the community with the assistance of home supports. It’s all about the clients and making sure that we are offering programs to meet their social, physical and economic needs while working with our funders and community partners to ensure that we are offering a high level of programming. It’s makes my day when I hear great feedback from the caregivers or from our staff. Sometimes it’s just as simple as a smile.