I’m a Principal Social Worker
My chosen object is the Grapevine. It has significance to me, because I believe that social workers form a network where a lot of information is shared and I dare not think where I would be if I was not connected to the ‘Grapevine of social work’. A bit like the song by Creedence Clearwater Survival – ‘I heard it through the grapevine’. I heard about new social work initiatives, changes in policy and legislation, research and training and even job opportunities through the grapevine.
We connect with people in a very special way and equally we connect with one another in a unique way. Social workers are inherently relational and talk to each other as we understand one another, even though we are a diverse bunch of people. When we connect well, there can be a fruitful harvest, which could produce much loved wine.
I rely on my colleagues to help me through my journey of social work and think fondly of the laughs we share and the conversations we have with one another in support and encouragement along the way. So, it’s all about where you connect with others on the grapevine to keep you healthy and prosperous in your career.
I studied a four-year degree in the heart of the wineland, in Stellenbosch, Western Cape. My first community project was volunteering four hours of my time a week, to teach an adult literacy course to farm workers, on a wine farm. They had little opportunities to learn how to read and write through the Apartheid’s regime that paid them in alcohol to keep them enslaved, commonly known as the ‘dopstelsel’ (alcohol system). What terrible outcomes it had for people and their children often suffering from Foetal Alcohol Syndrome. Yet, when on the farm I was always met with a smile and seeing people eager to learn was encouraging, as I did my part for social justice, trying to address those power imbalances when I was a student social worker. Thus, the vine has a lot of significance to me in terms of my history. It even has spiritual meaning for me, as a Christian we read about the vine in the Bible and how connection can help us bear much fruit.
I know that for a vine to be healthy and to have a strong sense of belonging and produce much fruit and influence in social work you need: • Climate, space and Grow – if you are in a good climate to grow, the best fruits will be produced from the vine. Social Workers much like a vine, need space to grow in a long and fruitful career. • Training – Grapevines need training to grow on an arbour, wire trellis or fence. Training takes several years, much like our current degree and continuous professional development it is vital and our new social work regulator advocates for this to uphold our social work values, skills and knowledge. It supports us to ensure better outcomes for our residents and service users. • Pruning – They say a vine needs to be pruned yearly, with sharp scissors or a knife. Some lessons in social work can be painful, but it will help us grow better. I often learned from things I did wrong and am still learning every day. • Pests or diseases – It’s important to keep the vine free from pests and diseases. Don’t surround yourself with people that are negative and cut yourself off from interactions that are unhelpful, to preserve your health and wellbeing for positive impact and a longer career. • Diversity – For the best results, choose the variety that suits your growing area, giving it proper care, support and pruning.
I’ve chosen Adult Social Work, despite being a generically trained social work, but don’t be afraid to try something different, you never know you may actually like it and prosper in it. Now, who doesn’t like a glass of vino? Or have it alcohol free and go for juice, it’s all good. It goes best with a natter with a fellow social worker, especially if they work in your vineyard (field of social work).
Now, after all this reading, put your feet up and have a glass!