In this interview offered by Eduard for the second issue of the Youth for Democracy magazine, we find out more about social work from a young person who has just started his journey as a social worker.
Eduard is a young 28 year-old Dutch who not so long ago became a social worker in his hometown, Hattem.
What can you tell us about you?
I was born and still live in a small city in the Netherlands called “Hattem”. My father has his own garden centre where you can often find me when I have some extra time for work. In 2017 I graduated in social work, since than I have been also working as a social worker.
But I do not see myself only as a social workers. I believe it is good to do different jobs and see different environments.
Besides being a social worker, I also like to do creativing thinks or making things from scratch. For example, sometimes I write stories, actually I released by first book this year. I just like to find out new things and do things most people only think about.
What is social work and why did you choose this career path?
Well, “social work” is a very wide term. As a social worker, I could be working in prison, I could be working with old people, people with disabilities, children and everything in between it.
You can help them in school, have a productive free time, learn or support them on their working place or in a housing project, where they live with people and a social worker, where newcomers are offered a 24-hour per day support, helping with dealing with traumas or addictions.
The specific type of social work you do can be optimized by doing something you are good at, but also like doing.
In my case, I like doing thinks with my clients. Working in a garden, cooking food or going to gym with youngsters. I also enjoy doing creative things, to show emotions in other ways, instead of talking about it, because this is hard for some people.
I started working when people with disabilities followed an internship at my father’s garden center. They asked a lot of questions about life, most of them like talking a lot and have interesting stories. They asked question not because I had the answers, but just to talk. So that was the moment when I started being interested in what I am doing today.
What can you tell us about your experience so far as a social worker? What exactly do you do and in what communities or with what kind of people do you work with?
I started with an internship at a housing group. It was not the best experience, since, most of the time, the young people were at school or work, so I could not do many things. Besides this internship, I also followed another on special education.
After my studies, I worked with children (age 12-13) who were send out of school because of bad behavior. This was an interesting experience, but it was also heavy in some points.The children were trying to manipulate me everyday, so I had to be very alert and careful with trusting them.
What was the most difficult group you had to work with? Do you have a specific situation? If yes, how did you manage it and what was the result?
People who have attachement problemes are very hard to understand. They can not learn to trust people. So one moment they like you and can not live without you, but the next day they can hate you.
The only think I could do is not taking it personally, and show them I am open to talking with them. But this is hard to, sometimes I change with a colleague so the person I was with would be guided by somebody he likes that day.
What can you tell us about the Dutch social working system?
I believe the Dutch social work is very well organised. There are a lot of opportunities to find the right activaties and right social worker for people.
The only bad thing is that a lot of young people can fall in a gap. After reaching the age of 18, they do not get help furthermore. Also the Government want people with dissabliaties to move to work force, but the gap from a social working place to real work is too big a lot of times.
I also believe that Netherlands can be to soft. Sometimes, it is a lot of pampering instead of motivate. I believe life is hard sometimes so you must beware not to make a person feel too comfortable to ask for constant help and support. So let them try things first before helping or doing everything for them.
Comparing to other countries, I know that in some countries it is normal for a family to take care of the elders, such as grandmothers or grandfathers. In Netherlands, most old people live in flats for old people. I do not know any Dutch people who live with their grandparents, or take a lot of care of them. So we pay for things that in the past we did by ourselves or organisations, like churches.
What do you think that people and communities can do to help vulnerable groups?
We can be more sociable. In Netherlands a lot of old people feel lonely. They sometimes have a lot of cool stories. So young people might put there phones more away and go grab a drink at there old neighbourg. Maybe the can do little jobs for them, like cutting the gras.
Social work in Netherlands is sometimes too much focused on finances to really care about this idea of connecting different groups of people who can help each other.
My father, for example, hire a guy more than 20 years ago to work at his gardencentre. This guy had cancer as a child and he can not do a lot of work. After his internship of special education, the social workers asked if he can stay at us, so they did not have to pay for a social workplace. He lives on welfare, but he is trying to come and work 4 days in the week.
Because of us his network is twice as big. He feels he is part of the team, even though sometimes people make fun of him. He is part of our company even when we can not expect him to work much or hard.