The Ongoing Fight For Marriage Equality

It has been one year since Amendment One passed here in North Carolina. The marriage amendment was a hot topic around the state bringing a much-needed debate at the same time a need for more awareness for the community on LGBTQ issues. Many people have made assumptions and judgments about this group of people which has been a barrier to expanding marriage equality.

945370_10151579259919339_1165518363_nEven though the amendment passed, this has brought marriage equality into the political conversation.  Marriage equality is going to come and one by one the attention of the nation has been focused on expanding marriage equality for all. Over the past year, community organizations such as Equality NC,  have empowered the community with their outreach and awareness efforts on behalf of the LGBTQ community.

With our hetero-privilege, our whole society is set up to oppress the LGBTQ community.  This country looks to the nuclear family model and often forgets that families do not fit a mold.  My close friends, myself included have actively participated in advocating for marriage equality.  The LGBTQ people I have connected with through working to advocate for marriage equality are amazing.

For people to maintain warmth, compassion, and understanding to society when many people discriminate against them, shows a lot of character. This community swells with the love of peace, understanding, unity, and respect for people; even as I said before, in the face of unsatisfactory behavior. Since I started my advocacy, I fell more of a sense of social justice than I did before. I always was a supporter of LGBTQ rights and the rights of anyone. But spending some time working with this community and the conversations that I had with the community made me feel that their issues were closer to home in a way. The urgency of justice was more aware to me.

282273_10151579227104339_87082254_nOn May 8th,  Equality NC commemorated the one-year anniversary of the passage of Amendment One. They asked friends, allies, and everyone to stand with them at the North Carolina General Assembly at their “STAND AS ONE” event, and to share their stories on how the passage of this amendment has affected them.

Participants of the event joined hands and circled the assembly as they “stood as one” and speakers such as State Senator Mike Woodard and openly-gay State Representative Marcus Brandon fired up the crowd by speaking about the fight for Equality in North Carolina.

As part of their on-going efforts Equality NC  has partnered with GIVE OUT DAY; an indicative to engage  “hundreds of organizations and mobilize thousands of people on a single day across the country to give in support of the LGBT community”. 

Interested donors can set up their own fundraising page to encourage family and friends to participate as well. And in order to spread awareness Equality NC also encourages all people from North Carolina families with LGBTQ members to share their stories on their  KNOW + LOVE channel. Many times, it is these personal stories that can bring about the greatest change.

Photo credit: Chris Speer

Warrick Dunn Charities Help Single Parents Become Homeowners

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Former NFL star, Warrick Dunn, is mostly known for his athletic ability. During 12 seasons in the NFL, Dunn was selected to the Pro Bowl, 3 times, and he was also the Rookie of the Year in 1997. As a rookie in the NFL, Dunn instantly decided that his true mission was to help underprivileged families. During his rookie campaign in 1997, Dunn organized the Homes for the Holidays(HFTH) program. The HFTH program rewards single-parent families for reaching first-time homeownership.

In 2002, Dunn started the Warrick Dunn Charities which has partnered with Habitat for Humanity and Aaron’s Rents to provide families with completely furnished homes, food, and personal supplies. Since their establishment, the HFTH and WDC  programs have assisted over 115 single parents and over 300 dependents in Atlanta, Baton Rouge, Tampa, and Tallahassee.

Dunn’s inspiration to be active in charity came from his mother Betty Dunn Smothers. His mother, a police officer, had dreams of owning a home to provide for her, and six children were never reached because she was killed while on duty. His mother inspired him through every positive decision he has made in life since her tragic death. In July 2012, Warrick Dunn Charities launched Betty’s Hope, a children’s bereavement program that works to empower youth as they manage their grief in a responsive environment to heal and enhance their quality of life.

Dunn’s hardships have molded him into a highly motivated person who wants to prevent children, and families, from going through the rough times that he and his own family endured. Most former NFL players take jobs in the media or stay out of the spotlight.

Dunn was inspired to continue helping families grow and providing housing to single-parents through the Home for the Holidays, and Warrick Dunn Charity programs. Dunn is still inspired by his mother’s dream, which motivates him to push harder for himself, and hundreds of families. Check out the link below for more information on Dunn’s charity programs.

The Uncharitable World of Policy: Dan Pallotta TED

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One of the biggest threats that all nonprofits face is the injustice and discrimination from our own government. Our current Congress wants nonprofits to survive without government spending at the same time it is creating policies that increase dependency on the services nonprofits provide.

If the government does not want to fund these services, then they must allow these facilities to find innovative ways to fund themselves.  Who or what will pay for these much needed services? Nonprofits are struggling to survive. However, if there were some sort of revenue, benefit to donate to these nonprofits, and a way to market the valuable work they do, they could greatly expand the number of people who are helped.

According to activist and fundraiser Dan Pallotta, everything the donating public has been taught about giving is dysfunctional, and this bleeds into the policy arena as well.  This creates misconceptions and injustice that target vulnerable populations. Dan claims there are a few specific ways that nonprofits are discriminated against in the economic world.

First through compensation, by providing more opportunities for incentives to other businesses instead of finding ways to incentivize people to produce more in the service population.   Secondly, through advertising and marketing, because investors don’t like to see their donations spent on advertising in the non-profit sector. Dan states, “You know, you want to make 50 million dollars selling violent video games to kids, go for it. We’ll put you on the cover of Wired magazine. But you want to make half a million dollars trying to cure kids of malaria, and you’re considered a parasite yourself.” (Dan Pallotta, 2008)

Most nonprofits must get their advertising donated, and this forces them to work at a capacity much lower than their other business counterparts. Thirdly by not allowing nonprofits to try innovative ideas because they are risky. In other profit businesses, taking risks is almost necessary and a loss is expected. However, in the nonprofit sector, these sorts of business risks are not allowed and could even be viewed as failures. Only Dan states when we prohibit failure we also stop innovation. The fourth way is through time limits.

For example, Dan states, that if a nonprofit told investors and donors that for six years no money was going to go to the needy, it was all going to be invested in building their nonprofit they would not be supported. However that is exactly what Amazon did, and they were supported in this by their investors. Most nonprofits have time limits for success and don’t have the opportunity to grow their nonprofit before they must close doors. And lastly being seen as a drain on the community rather than a value. In our society we value independence and vulnerable populations are not seen as worthy, only as unsustainable.

But this idea of individuality is an illusion, we cannot exist without being dependent on several variables. There is so much discrimination against vulnerable populations, it is almost as if it is purposeful and intentional to make it so difficult for the nonprofit sector. As long as we have this belief in our society things will not change. It is disappointing that in our society we value things that hurt us or isolate us however helping members of the community that is struggling is unfavorable.

Interview with Social Work Professor Barbara Zelter Arrested for Protesting with NAACP Against Bad NC Policies

I had the opportunity to catch up with Social Work Professor Barbara Zelter after she escaped the clutches of the Wake County Detention Center due to being arrested for protesting with NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) against the terrible policies of the North Carolina Legislature. Barbara teaches social work policy at North Carolina State University, and her class has been following legislation being enacted by North Carolina’s new super majority Republican led state legislature which means they control the majority in the house and senate with a Republican Governor. Here is some of our conversation:

SWH:  Tell us a bit about your background, and what fuels you to fight for vulnerable populations?

Barbara: It seems to me that some people are born with a kind of radar that makes them notice social unfairness.  Even as a child, I noticed things like rich and poor neighborhoods, and I seemed drawn to those living nontraditional lives on the edges.  I grew up in a middle-class family in Rochester, New York, the daughter of a Jewish Dad and Episcopal-turned Catholic Mom.  We had international visitors, and this opened my eyes to various cultures and traditions as enriching and fascinating. Religion was always compelling to me for its mysteries and the social gospel.  In 2008, I returned to hometown of Rochester after 40 years to get a master’s in theology at the seminary across the street from our childhood home.

Barbara Zelter Social Work Professor NCSUMy Masters of Social Work was from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-CH), in 1991 (I get a degree every 20 years: college 1971, MSW 1991, MA in Theology 2011–we’ll see about 2031).  When starting with the MSW program in 1988 we had three children in elementary school.  Before that, I had been an employment counselor, an editor, a refugee sponsor, a crisis counselor volunteer for Hopeline, and other things.  I went to social work school wanting to be a therapist, like most students.  But graduate school can be wonderfully transformative if we allow it to be.

I was solicited to move into the Administration and Policy track at UNC and never looked back. The next 20 years involved community organizing for health care equity, living wages, campaign finance reform, against the death penalty, in support of families on TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families), etc.  The pay was terrible, but the people doing the organizing inspired me.  A graduate school internship opened my world to the layer of community agitators for social justice all over the state.  I knew I had found a home with them.

Ten years were with the North Carolina Council of Churches; for five of those years, two others–Kathy Putnam (MSW, with the NC Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Coalition) and Micheline Ridley Malson (my first Social Work MSW teacher and a consultant now)–and I ran a statewide nonprofit called JUBILEE, around welfare reform.  It was a project of the NC Council of Churches and emphasized getting the voices of the families in the welfare system into the new welfare reform plans, and also involving trained teams in religious congregations to partner with families who would be losing benefits.  We had a third area of work, called Public Samaritan, that spoke for economic justice–jobs that paid enough, health care for all, etc.  We believed that you must combine community support with policy advocacy.

After that, I worked with the Council from 2003-2007 as their statewide organizer around peace and economic justice.  Then came seminary–I finished there in December of 2010 not wanting to be ordained and having exactly zero clue what might be next. I landed unexpectedly at NC State, opening field internships in advocacy organizations and then teaching.  It was a close friend from my MSW program, Dr. Jodi K. Hall, now the Field Director at the Department of Social Work at North Carolina State University (NCSU), who invited me to come to NCSU.  As she says:  “Don’t burn any bridges!”  You never know which of your classmates, teachers, field people, or others may open a door for you one day.  I am in debt to Dr. Hall; I dearly love working with students at this stage of my life.

SWH: I have heard many social workers say that social work is not political. What is your response to this statement?

Barbara: You know, we are at a time in history that greatly dishonors the proud foundation of social work in the settlement houses. A tradition that blended solidarity with immigrants and the poor emphasized a strong critique of the social systems that neglected whole segments of the population.  We live in a time where the Mary Richmond casework model of professional casework and the subsequent intrapsychic (focus on the psychology of the individual) tradition has almost completely taken over the professional social work field. I have a lot of opinions on this subject!

Serving individuals and families is a great social work task–relieving pain, finding resources, helping people find their ways to health, and community support is the area in which most social work jobs can now be found.  I do not blame students for following the areas where they actually can make a livelihood around caring and empowering people.  This is good work.  However, the alternate path of community organizing, policy focus, and political advocacy simply does not offer the same range of paid job opportunities.  There was more funding for these things a generation ago.

Teaching social policy and social welfare history, I find that students DO care about unfair policies, programs, and systems, but are simply not sure what to do to make a difference in the beyond-agency world of policy and politics. A world clearly driven and controlled by moneyed interests.  As they learn who actually represents them in the government, and which groups are out there to advocate on issues they care about, they DO jump in with fervor.

I think that at this time, it is best to acknowledge that social work jobs are mostly in the personal healing world but to challenge all service providers to always see individual situations in the analytical context of broad sociopolitical structures.  Service-provider social workers should be attuned to ways they can best advocate at the local, state, and national levels for funding, programs, and policies best for the common good.

Some will be called to serve at the next level, direct action, and civil disobedience, in the classic civil rights tradition of nonviolent resistance.  To me, we are at a historical moment that demands far more than polite letters to legislators.  Our bodies must be on the line.  Arrests and jail must be part of our social work advocacy options.

SWH: Social workers have largely been absent from the national conversation on discussing the social safety net that we implement. How did this happen, and what needs to be done to get back into the conversation?

Barbara: Schools of Social Work need to emphasize social justice, political economy, where the dollars come from for programs people like, and our Code of Ethics mandate around civic voice and participation.  I love the fact that NCSU’s Department of Social Work has this clear focus.  Additionally, individual social workers need to simply put in the time it takes to stay connected with local, state, and national advocacy groups that speak out on these social safety net policy issues while they are busy day to day in the trenches.

Unfortunately, we live in a time of debt bondage, just like it was described in biblical times.  Students carry an impossible load of debt, so of course, they think mainly about how to get a job that pays well.  The debt forgiveness movement around student debt is a hopeful sign.  If Wall Street gets a bailout for bad decisions and risky investments for the gain of the few, why does our country not “bail out” students who will be the leaders of our next generation?  When individual social workers are not heavily involved in the national social safety net conversation, we need to look clearly at the fiscal and political systems that keep the whole “caring community” in dire financial straits.  When we do not have national health insurance, a national care plan for the elderly, etc., the entire social services public and private sectors run like hamsters on a wheel to serve the millions of desperate Americans.  Unless we get our heads out of the trenches of service and deal with the large systems, the future for social workers and those we serve is bleak, I believe.

SWH: Many journalists and other disciplines become experts on social welfare policy because of their writing. What can be done in social work education to encourage more students to use technology and journalism to advocate for vulnerable populations?

Great question. I am mightily encouraged by the young generation’s use of social media, visual arts, and nontraditional communication methods to gain attention to issues, raise funds, tell stories, attract support, and move people to political action.  This is an exciting time, and social workers can be part of this transition from classic and sometimes punitive social service systems to creative, crowd-sourced means of rebuilding communities of support and equity.

SWH: What is next for you, and how should others get involved and become aware of the rights being rolled back in North Carolina?

Barbara: I am a member of the NAACP, and as one of the first group of arrestees during this North Carolina General Assembly (NCGA) session, I will remain involved in the continuing witness on each of the “Moral Mondays” coming up at the legislature until they close this summer.  Much credit goes to the North Carolina Chapter of the  NAACP for catalyzing a “movement, not a moment” at this time.  Scholars, medical professionals, students, clergy, and others are coming together in a bold way to speak loudly against drastic racist and anti-poor legislation.

We all are naming the culture flip in North Carolina back to the ways of the Old South.  We are becoming an apartheid state once again, and this is serious. The Voter ID bill, for instance, is a blatant attempt to block the Black vote, which was so active in the 2012 election. We are basically at a time when the white old guard is pressing back against the new multicultural majority, resisting the browning of America. This of course is not the language of the discourse, which is around debt and budgets, not cultural change. I hope to encourage more social workers to join in this effort of public witness and resistance.  As Rev. Barber says:  These legislators may do what they do, but it will not be in the dark!  We are watching, and naming the violation of moral, religious, and social work ethics.

NAACP has produced a string of videos with the statements of all protesters who were arrested. I have attached the video statement of Barbara Zelter, and the others can be viewed on Rev. William Barber’s Youtube Channel.

Jason Collins Become First Openly Gay Male Sports Athlete

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Current NBA free agent, Jason Collins, took the world by storm earlier this week after becoming the first major sports athlete to announce that he was gay. Collins has been in the NBA for 12 years, and no one ever knew of his sexuality until Monday. When the story broke, Collin’s instantly became a household name. As everyone knows, the gay and lesbian rights issue has reached new heights in today’s society.

It’s truly amazing that no athlete has ever come out to admit that they were gay while being an active player. Most sports figures are seen as the toughest men in the entire world. You wouldn’t think that any of these rich and powerful men would have reason to hide anything from anyone. The truth is, there are more players like Jason Collins who are indeed afraid to speak out about their sexuality. That’s what makes it so special that this man stood up, before anyone else, and became a leader for gays across the world.

It’s comforting to see someone in Collins’ position be able to do what’s right despite possible retaliation. Jason received a ton of support including current and former, NBA and NFL, players. Kobe Bryant tweeted “Proud of @jasoncollins34. Don’t suffocate who u r because of the ignorance of others #courage #support #mambaarmystandup #BYOU”, and more sports figures are offering more support each day. Collins’ act of bravery is respected highly. All of the support he receives will make it easier for the next person who refuses to hide their sexual orientation. This was a very brave act by a man with nothing to gain and everything to lose.

We as people should continue to get behind others like Jason Collins. There are more people out there who are hiding and afraid to be criticized. As a nation, we need to stand behind individuals like Jason Collins, and let them know that we support their ability to live their lives without persecution.

Jason Collins surprised a lot of people especially when he didn’t know what type of responses he would receive. However, he still managed to muster up enough courage to come out and openly admit his sexual orientation. Hopefully, his courage will inspire more athletes in the LGBTQ community to be unafraid to let everyone know who they really are.

 

Photo Courtesy of  Sports illustration

Jackie Chan’s Dedication to Charity is Amazing

Jackie Chan Sits With Kids As They Learn

Many of us know Jackie Chan as one of the most memorable actors of our generation. His stunts have dazzled people for decades. Although his role as an actor may be what we remember him by, his dedication and loyalty to charity are just as amazing as him leaping off of a building onto a moving train.

In 1988, Jackie Chan founded The Jackie Chan Charitable Foundation. A foundation that aids Honk Kong’s occupants by offering scholarships, medical services, and assisting with natural disasters and illness. In October of 2002, Jackie also founded The Dragon Heart Foundation.

The foundation is driven to fulfill the needs of the less fortunate populations in China. Since the foundation’s birth, it has helped build over a dozen schools. The organization has also raised over one million dollars toward the education of poor kids and reached out to the elderly by donating warm clothes and wheelchairs.

Dragon Heart Foundation School
School Building Funded by The Dragon Heart Foundation

Chan’s long list of charity work is truly one of the more amazing things any man could do for his country. Below is a list of charity work and events he has sponsored from 2010 to 2011.

  • Organized “Love Without Borders 3/11 Candlelight Gala” to benefit Japan earthquake/tsunami victims.
  • Donated books to poor children in Qindao, China
  • Raised US $2 million for the Jackie Chan Charitable Foundation in Hong Kong
  • Ninth Annual Bazaar Charity Night sold Jackie Chan’s Dragon’s Heart
  • Richard Mille watch for US $800,000
  • Attends Wuhan Charity Concert
  • Hosted the “Believe in Love” charity event in Beijing
  • Sponsored Dragon’s Heart Summer Camp in Beijing
  • Donated 5 million RMB (US $732,000) to help Haiti earthquake victims.
  • Worked with WildAid to support preservation of endangered tigers.
  • Donation of school supplies to “Charming Schools” in China
  • Raised US $5.2 million in donations for the Singapore Thong Chai Medical Institution
  • Helped raise US 29 million for drought relief in China.
  • Visited Qinghai, China to bring food, water, and supplies to victims of the April 14, 6.9 magnitude earthquake
  • Participated in the “Artistes 414 Fundraising Campaign” concert to raise money for victims of the April 14th earthquake in China
  • Charity mission to Tongren in the Guizhou province of China to bring much-needed water and supplies to the drought-stricken area.

This list can’t even begin to sum up the hard work and dedication that Jackie Chan has put into charity. It gives you some insight into what change he has made in only a small period of time. Jackie Chan’s dedication to charity is still as strong as it has ever been.

University of Kentucky Social Work Student Lands Role on New BET Series Being Mary Jane

Although he is not a household name yet, University of Kentucky College of Social Work Student, Trey Lindsey, landed a role in the original BET series “Being Mary Jane” starring Gabrielle Union.  I was able to catch up with Trey for an interview with SWH as a result of an impromptu Twitter exchange.  Trey was excited to do his part in using his soon to be celebrity status to help bring some visibility to social work.

It was a great interview, but what struck me most about Trey’s responses is that he still self-identifies as a social worker although actor is probably more appropriate.  Trey’s character is a superstar pro-athlete from Tennessee who gets suspended for six games for testing positive for Adderall. Being Mary Jane will begin airing sometime this Spring. You can follow Trey on Twitter using @treylindsey.

Trey Lindsey SWH: Tell me a little about your background and why you chose social work as a major.

Trey: Well, I was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia. I had a great upbringing as a child and caught the acting bug at a very young age. I have three older siblings; two sisters and a brother. I am of course the baby of the clan. I came to the University of Kentucky (UK) originally wanting to major in Broadcast/Communications and switched my major a few times until I fell comfortably into the College of Social Work. I have a strong passion for helping others. I know what it’s like to struggle and have the odds against you, so helping others and giving back in some capacity has always been a priority for me. I believe social work allows me to do that among many other things.

SWH: Tell us about your social work program, and what kind of school projects have you been working on.

Trey: The Social Work program at UK is great. It’s one of the smaller colleges at the university so everyone pretty much knows one another. The professors are very hands on and provide great resources for the students to use. With being a male in the field though, you kind of find yourself outnumbered when it comes to the ratio of male to female. It was a little difficult for me to get use to only because I had never had classes before with all females. Being an African American male in a college full of majority Caucasian females, it was definitely an environmental adjustment for me lol. However, I have grown used to it.

I haven’t really been working on too many school projects. Mainly,  you can catch me writing research papers constantly and interning at my practicum which is where a lot of my free time is utilized.

SWH: Is there any crossover between your social work skill set and acting skill set? 

Trey: I believe there is a great relationship when it comes to my social work skill set and acting skill set. What I’ve learned about the Social Work profession is that you have to be a great listener. You want to meet clients at their levels and always follow the Code of Ethics, and lastly, always be professional.

When it comes to acting, you’re a professional and you have to behave as a professional at all times. It’s a very demanding profession that requires a lot of discipline, focus, confidence, determination and perseverance. When I’m on a set filming, I am focused 100% on doing my job. Acting uses the “Give and Receive” method that I find useful in the social work profession as well.  

SWH:  How did you prepare for your role, and how did you get your big break? 

Trey: Well once I’ve been hired for a role, I usually prepare myself mentally by learning everything I can about the character and transforming myself into it. I’ll read the script word by word at least twice from front to back, and dissect on a separate sheet of paper some of the emotions and different view points on how the character may respond to a particular given situation. Once it’s time to film though, I zone out. I’m all about performing to the best of my ability and listening to the direction of the director. I try to stay in character even in-between takes and blocking so that everything stays fluid and realistic when it’s time to start filming again. A lot of people don’t know this, but I HATE being in my trailer! Haha

I would much rather be on set watching everything and learning as much as I can behind the scenes. The film industry is its own world that has its own language and set way of doing things. I am truly in my most comfortable state when I am on a set filming. It’s my passion, it’s my world, and it’s what brings me a level of contentment and happiness that words can’t describe.

I guess my introduction to the big leagues was when I filmed on “Big Momma’s: Like Father, Like Son” with Martin Lawrence. It was a great experience, and I learned a lot because of it. As an actor, you want to always be progressing in your career, and I am blessed to say that so far.  God is providing me with amazing opportunities. 

SWH: Even though, you are entering show business, are you open to doing any public service announcements or using your celebrity in the future to educate about social work?

Trey: Absolutely! I’m not one who’s focused on the title of being a celebrity. Quite frankly, it’s a false illusion. If the privilege of having that title allows me to educate, advocate, and bring awareness to others about certain issues affecting our world, then I think that’s AWESOME.

The Social Work profession does not receive its due credit or recognition in the way it should. It has a very negative stereotypical image that was created by the media, and I want nothing more than to be a contributor to turning that image around.  I would be honored to show people just how passionate we social workers are about helping others in need.

 

WWE Superstar John Cena’s Heroic Dedication To Charity

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Since his start in the WWE more than 10 years ago, John Cena has become a household name and the face of World Wrestling Entertainment. As the face of the WWE, Cena is constantly in the spotlight. Some stars may fold under the pressure of being a huge celebrity, but not John Cena.

Cena embraces his role as a leader in and out of the ring. John Cena has catapulted himself atop the wrestling industry and has won the WWE Championship more than ten times. During his run atop the WWE, John has also made history by helping kids across the United States.

As one of the biggest celebrities in America today, John Cena goes to extreme measures to make the world a better place. In 2009, Cena became Wish Ambassador for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. The Make-A-Wish Foundation is best known for its efforts to grant wishes for kids with life-threatening illnesses.

As Wish Ambassador, it’s Cena’s job to assist in expanding wish-granting outreach throughout America.  Led by NBA legend and Chief Wish Ambassador Michael Jordan, the council is composed of people passionate and dedicated to the Foundation’s work and vision.

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In 2012, John Cena became the number one Wish granting celebrity in the United States. Cena has granted over 300 wishes to this day, a number that continues to grow rapidly due to John’s dedication to the Foundation.

Cena meets two to three kids a week, a very tough task when you’re working 300 plus days a year as a professional wrestler. John Cena has made kids across America smile every week since he’s been active with the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

Most celebrities are known to just do a simple meet and greet with the children at the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Cena does everything and more for the kids in need of help. Cena has been known to bring kids to live WWE events to meet some of their favorite wrestlers and TV personalities. Cena is also known to sign memorabilia for the kids and their families.

“He has been a big supporter of us forever,” said Make-A-Wish national communications manager Mark Hiegel. “By this time next year, he’ll have 400.” – Read the full story – Via Yahoo! Sports

Meeting John Cena is high on the lists of millions of kids across the world. Cena has those same kids atop his list as well. The current WWE Champion may not be liked by everyone in the business of professional wrestling but his efforts with the Make-A-Wish Foundation deserve everyone’s respect and admiration.

Celebrities of Cena’s stature should be influenced and encouraged by John’s work so they can also reach out to charities across the world in an effort to make the planet a better place. Thank You, John!

Happy Anniversary Social Work Helper: Reflecting on the First Year

When I first got the idea to create Social Work Helper, my goal was to provide a place for helping professionals to collaborate, share information, and find support. However, Social Work Helper has changed tremendously from when it was first launched on World Social Work Day, March 20, 2012. The original website provided some information, but it primarily served as the portal to the social network I created specifically designed for helping professionals.

After graduating from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with my Masters in Social Work, it would be one year before I was able to find employment again.  During that year, I felt disconnected from my profession because I could no longer afford to pay membership dues to be a part of a professional association. I scoured various different social networks in order to connect with other social workers or helping professionals that were struggling with unemployment like me.

I found that there were other professionals and social workers who were struggling with unemployment, but I quickly realized Linkedin and Facebook were not the forums to discuss these feelings. It’s not uncommon for potential employers to scour social media sites to check out prospective employees, so I still did not feel comfortable reaching out and posting my struggles with unemployment on these sites. I also found it impossible to connect with these folks through private messaging because current social networks prevent you from reaching out to someone not in your network.

Social Work Helper was created as a niche professional network with enhanced security and an approval process in order to provide a space for support, information, and collaboration to its users. I designed this site to make it easier for like-minded individuals to connect with each other. There is no more out of network or do you know this person, the pre-approval process helps to determine the suitability of users.

As people begin to join, the swhelper mobile app and updated web space were created to make it easier for users to connect on their smartphones. The network also provides a library of resources for users, groups, forums, community blog posts, podcast, and more. Then, the Social Work Helper Magazine was created to further increase visibility for social work, nonprofits, and social good organizations. Social Work Helper has launched other components to include social work chats which is a live Twitter chat using the hashtag #SWUnited.

Marriage Equality Goes Before the Supreme High Court

Daniel Martinez-Leffew (left) wrote a letter to Chief Justice Roberts, urging him to accept marriage equality. Shown from right to left: Daniel Martinez-Leffew, Bryan Leffew (father), Jay Foxworthy (father), Selena Leffew (sister) (Photo/Courtesy Bryan Leffew)
Daniel Martinez-Leffew (left) wrote a letter to Chief Justice Roberts, urging him to accept marriage equality. Shown from right to left: Daniel Martinez-Leffew, Bryan Leffew (father), Jay Foxworthy (father), Selena Leffew (sister) (Photo/Courtesy Bryan Leffew)

Today, the United States Supreme Court will hear opening arguments on the constitutionality of California’s Prop 8 which denies marriage equality to same sex couples. Before I go any further, I want to state that my Faith and Belief in God do not prohibit me from supporting Marriage Equality as a constitutional right under the Law. Let me explain!

First, my religious beliefs are a guide for my behavior, and I don’t expect someone to impose their religious beliefs on me no more than I would impose my will on them. Secondly, using religion as a basis to legislate against same-sex marriage as morally wrong would require the same litigant to argue that legalized prostitution in Nevada is an accepted religious practice.  It is not my place to demand others navigate their lives based on my moral compass especially when their lives have no effect on how I live mine.

I was looking at the news the other day when I saw this video of a 12 year old little boy who wrote Justice Roberts a letter asking that his two Dads be allowed to marry. This little boy along with his sister and another brother was placed in foster care. His brother was adopted, but he wasn’t because of his health care needs. I have seen firsthand same-sex couples who have been discriminated against by social services agencies/social workers who would rather leave a child in foster care than place them in the home of a loving same-sex couple.

Most importantly, as a social worker, I should not have the right or the ability to deny a child from a viable adoptive or foster care same-sex couple placement because it conflicts with my personal/religious beliefs. In my opinion, the decision would be cruel, inhumane, and unconstitutional because it fails to consider the needs of an unwanted or abused child who could benefit from inheriting a loving family who desperately wants children.

Please watch the Youtube video of this young man, Daniel Martinez-Leffew, reading his letter to Chief Justice Roberts. If this does not convince you that marriage inequality is wrong, you are too self-absorbed to see beyond yourself.

From NBA Star To School Crossing Guard for the Health Insurance

Dantley

Former NBA Superstar and Hall-of-Famer, Adrian Dantley, has a new job as a middle school crossing guard. This gives a whole new meaning to a “crossing-guard” in the NBA. Retired NBA players usually don’t end up working again especially blue-collar jobs. The money they earn through their careers is usually enough to provide for themselves and their family, but it isn’t about the money in Adrian Dantley’s case. After Dantley’s NBA career ended, he made his way up the coaching ladder.

From 2009-2012, Dantley was an assistant coach for the Denver Nuggets, and he later was the head coach while George Karl was battling cancer. After that season ended, Dantley suddenly found himself without a  job because he did not want to switch back seats with Coach Karl after his return. This left Dantley without a job, out of the NBA, and without health insurance.

Now, Adrian Dantley is a crossing guard making about $15,000 a year working outside of Eastern Middle School in Washington, D.C., and 15k a year isn’t much for a man who still lives in a 1.1 million dollar home in a suburb of D.C. However, Dantley didn’t take the job for the money or the public service. He took the job for the health benefits because the NBA does not offer health benefits for retired players.  Although the job is part-time job working only one hour a day, he receives full-time healthcare benefits.

“On a recent morning I was sitting in a car at the intersection that Dantley guards, and just minutes before the first period bell was to ring, I saw him lunge in front of a running youngster, who was oblivious to everything but her own fear of tardiness, and keep the kid out of the path of a turning automobile. He went about this lifesaving task with all the effort he’d put into stopping Isaiah Thomas from driving to the basket or David Falk from touching a paycheck. It was as if the gods wanted me to know Dantley’s not on anybody’s dole.” – Dave McKenna / Sportswriter – Full Story via Yahoo

Dantley averaged 24.3 points per game for his career and is a top 25 scorer in NBA history, and he was also the leading scorer on the 1976 US Olympic team that captured the gold medal in Montreal. His NBA career lasted 15 years, also making six All-Star appearances.

Movie Review – A League of Their Own (1992)

A League of Their Own was a brilliant movie released in 1992, and it has since made its way into Hollywood history. The directors, producers, and actors had such a small canvas, but they managed to produce a masterpiece. Nobody ever knew they could stir up so much emotion for a woman’s baseball league.

I was only a kid when I first saw this movie, but I felt its importance even then. Seeing these women deal with the struggles of playing for an under-minded baseball league as they made their way to the big leagues was a tremendous experience. This movie gives you a glimpse into the challenges and barriers women faced especially in sports.

Back then, I wasn’t familiar with the big name A list actors and actresses, but I knew they were doing one hell of a job. Looking back,  for me, the stand-out star in the movie was Geena Davis.

Davis was a budding star on the silver screen, but I had no idea of the impact and inspiration of the women behind the movie. I just knew I was watching a memorable performance by a beautiful woman. Her portrayal of star baseball player Dottie Hinson was remarkable and will forever be one of my favorites.  Dottie Hinson’s character was inspired by real life female baseball player Dorothy “Dottie” Kamenshek.

Kamenshek played first base for the Rockford (Ill.) Peaches from 1943 to 1951 and again in 1953, and finished among the league’s top 10 career batting leaders, with an average of .292. She was named one of the top 100 female athletes of the century by Sports Illustrated, winning batting titles by hitting .316 in 1946 and .306 in 1947. Read Full Article NYTimes

Also, this was my first introduction to the acting talents of Tom Hanks who is now one of my favorite actors as well, and his work in Hollywood has been legendary. The supporting cast was made up of many big celebrity names who in 1992 were at the beginner of their careers. The biggest celebrity name on that list is mega-star Madonna, who played the role of Mae Morabito.

Mae and her chubby fun-loving friend played by Rosie O’Donnell were very memorable characters in the movie. Anne Cusack, Bill Pullman, and Jon Lovitz also played major roles in this classic hit. It’s simply a flawless picture from start to finish. If you haven’t seen this movie, I strongly suggest you make it the next movie you watch. This is a hit that definitely is a home run. Check out one of my favorite scenes. Enjoy!

Interview with Gary Wexler: Former Ad Executive Turn Nonprofit Activist

Recently, I had the opportunity to interview Gary Wexler who is a former Ad Executive that has helped to create television commercials for products such as Apple and Coca-cola. Now, Gary uses his powers for good to help nonprofit agencies maximize their marketing strategies instead of wasting donor dollars on ineffective tactics. Also, Gary Wexler is an Adjunct Professor at the University of Southern California teaching marketing in the Annenberg School of Communication. Later in the article, you will also be able to view a short video on “Way Beyond Branding” by Gary Wexler who possesses a wealth of knowledge, and I would like to share with you our conversation.

SWH: Tell me a bit about your background and your passion for the Nonprofit Sector.

Gary: I became involved with nonprofit causes in high school joining a student club where we traveled as tutors, working with grade school kids in poverty areas of Los Angeles. It captured my soul and began a lifelong involvement with the sector as an activist, volunteer, board member, donor, and finally as a professional. In my 40s, I left my career as a successful ad agency copywriter and creative director, creating award winning television commercials for Apple Computer and Coca Cola because I realized my passion was with the nonprofit sector. My passion for the sector lies in the fact that the nonprofit sector holds the soul of our society.

SWH: How do you define Nonprofit Revolution Now and what is it mission?

Gary: The world has changed. We are living in a new era, dominated by new thinking.  Yet, the nonprofit sector is in many cases stuck in old-thinking and fearful of making the drastic changes needed in order to survive and thrive. The Revolution is leading the way for these new changes and methodologies using what we call “Seize the Conversation” marketing as the engine of positive disruption within the sector. Seize the Conversation is integrated with Human Centered Design Thinking which is a way to bring people into collaboration to create the big new ideas that will give the sector a powerful verve. This is the purpose, goal, and methodology of the Revolution.

For the organizations who read the Revolution, the other purpose is to lead them to realize that nonprofit marketing is about helping create three results—fundraising, advocacy and participation. It’s results are not a branding or social marketing campaign. Those are mere tactics, along with many others, in the battle. But, this is a battle for ideas that penetrate the hearts and minds of the donors, activists and participants.

SWH: How did this new project come about, and what types of issues do you focus your writing?

Gary: It came about from my teaching. I am the Professor of both Nonprofit Marketing as well as Advertising in the Masters in Communications Management program at USC/Annenberg. In nonprofit marketing, my students were sent out to work with real nonprofit clients, armed with knowledge they gained in class on how to focus and ask invasive questions and then bring the client participants into consensus.

When they return to class each semester after meeting their clients, the students all say the exact same thing. “You taught us how to focus, ask questions and bring consensus and these nonprofits can’t do it.” That’s when I knew I had to begin writing about the issues of the sector and what I believe the solutions are. The focus of the writing is on big ideas as solutions created through Seize the Conversation strategies.

SWH: What is the Nonprofit Revolution Now Manifesto?

Gary: The Manifesto is the weekly blog…soon to be called the “Blog-ifesto.” The new site will be up in the next few weeks which will be exciting, powerful, informational and controversial.

SWH: What kind of information and content do you highlight on the blog?

Gary: I grab the most important conversations that need to be circulating in the nonprofit sector and then translate them into how to create results using big ideas to deliver the goals of fundraising, advocacy and participation.

SWH: How does someone become a part of the Revolution?

Two ways. Either sign up for the blog. Or bring us in to create the Revolution within your organization, helping you reach your fundraising, advocacy, or participation goals.

Wanting more of Gary Wexler? You can visit him at http://www.garywexler.com or Nonprofit Revolution Now. You may also want to follow him on Twitter at @garywexler.

 

 

 

Mothers of Bedford and Prison Reform

On February 12, 2013, Our Children’s Place, a local nonprofit based in Chapel Hill, in partnership with Meredith College hosted the viewing of “Mothers of Bedford” and opened the discussion on prison reform.  This riveting documentary by Jenifer McShane, follows the lives of five women as they try to be mothers to their children while incarcerated in a maximum security prison.  Early on in the film, viewers are hit with some cold, hard facts:  Women are the fastest growing population in today’s U.S. prisons.  Furthermore, 80 percent of those women are mothers of school-aged children. While many parents find it difficult to be away from a child a week, imagine being separated for ten to twenty years?

After the film, we had a Q&A with Jenifer McShane, and the audience was eager to ask questions.  McShane said that it was a 5 year process to make this film, because she had to keep going back and forth.  When asked what her motivation was, McShane replied, “Sister Elaine’s work should be told.  She is a mother, a visionary, and she has been doing it for decades.  I went into the prison and this took over my life.  It had to be told.”

The topic of privatizing prisons arose, and how it is scary to think prisons owners can make a profit from housing inmates.  The viewer wanted to know McShane thoughts on this phenomenon. McShane stated she did agree that privatized prisons are a scary thought.  McShane went on to say that the model used at Bedford Hills is hard to replicate, but she is convinced it can be done with supportive superintendents and communities.  The curriculum was made at Bedford, but it can be shared to help spur prison reform in other states. One final question was asked which was directed to Melissa Radcliff, Executive Director of Our Children’s Place.  An audience viewer asked, “Why North Carolina does not have this program implemented in our prisons”.

Radcliff stated that this public forum is the start of the conversation.  It has been noticed that people are not talking about it, so the public needs to help ask questions.  Ask teachers if they know about the children in their class? Do they have parents in prison? Do they know what resources to offer?  I had the pleasure of meeting Mrs. Radcliff, and I asked her if she saw N.C. implementing this model in the future? Also, did she find legislators hesitant and/or resistant to change?  Yes, I do think we’ll have the opportunity to implement some new types of programs for children of incarcerated parents, both inside prisons and in the community, in the near future.  With that in mind, our education and awareness efforts will need to be ongoing as will our work to gather research and data on how children are impacted when a parent goes to prison.”

The Children’s Center at Bedford Hills Correction Center in New York was initiated and led as the Director by Sister Elaine Roulet.  The Children’s Center is a highly unique program that allows infants born while the mother is incarcerated, the ability to stay with the mother for up to one year.  One of the five women in the film, Melissa, who is serving a two year sentence had her daughter, Emma, while in Bedford Hills. Therefore, she has been able to take advantage of the Nursery resources and keep Emma with her at all times.

This has given her the ability to see her daughter’s first achievements and create the natural bonding that is needed during this developmental stage.  The Children’s Center not only houses a Nursery, but it also has a children’s playroom and a parenting center.  The playroom is useful during visitation hours, so the children can feel that they have a more “normal” visit with their mother instead of sitting at a table with a guard.

The mothers are allowed to have a planned weekend with their children twice a month.  However, if you have any infractions, you are not allowed to participate.  For example, one mother, Tanika, had gum in her cell, and that is not allowed. She was not allowed to participate in her scheduled overnight / weekend visit.  Tanika was also confined to her cell for 15 days, except for the 1 hour she was allowed outside.  Even though she received this punishment, Tanika knew how disappointed her sons would be in not having their visit. One holiday that is widely celebrated at Bedford Hills is Mother’s Day.

The film shows Mona doing arts and crafts with children, fixing up the rooms, and decorating. Mona, while her sons are much older and she is a grandmother, has become the “honorary party coordinator” on the unit. It is no surprise to see Mona go all out for Mother’s Day.  She has everything decorated, and she has created silhouettes of the moms to give to their children.  All of the prisoners anxiously wait for everyone to get there because buses were sent out to pick up their families.  Anneathia, who has a history of drug use and her mother is also a recovering addict, waits for her two daughters to arrive.  She says, “Today you’re a mom, but tomorrow you go back to being an inmate.”

Rosa, mother of two boys, works in the Nursery while serving her sentence. Throughout the film, I noticed that Rosa’s oldest son, Joey who is only 10 years old, seemed very mature for his age.  It could be seen in the way he talked and in his thought process.  At one point, Joey was talking about what happened to him and his family, and how he was not going to let it stop his dreams.  He said, “The past is the past, but the past also travels with you into the future.”  You could hear murmurs and “wows” from the audience, as they were all thinking the same thing…. How profound to come from this innocent child.

In retrospect, N.C., along with many other prisons has a long road ahead of them to make things better for these children.  I have personally worked in a Labor & Delivery unit for 10 years, and have seen how a prisoner comes in to have a baby, and then goes back to the prison without her baby, sometimes in tears.  Everyone makes a mistake, and while there needs to be punishments and consequences, I feel that the children are not being considered or recognized.  Therefore, their “sentence” is far worse than the mothers, because not having their mother during crucial stages of development has long lasting effects that can carry on past childhood.  Joey, 10 years old, asked what “prison” was when he was younger, and he was told: “that is where the bad people that do bad things go”!

Joey’s reply: “Where do the good people that do bad things go?”

 

Photo Credit: Our Children’s Place Website

Our Children’s Place: Presents Mothers of Bedford

 

Our Children’s Place, a local Chapel Hill nonprofit, in partnership with Meredith College will be hosting a screening of the acclaimed documentary Mothers of Bedford on February 12, 2013, at 6:30 PM EST. Mothers of Bedford explores the complexities of motherhood while being confined in a maximum security prison. The harsh reality of our day is that 80 percent of women in US prisons are mothers of school aged children. The film examines the lives of five women, and the challenges they face being parents behind bars.

The screening will be held at Kresge Auditorium in the Cate Student Center at 3800 Hillsborough Street in Raleigh, NC. Suggested donations for the public is $30.00 for the community and $10.00 for students. Our Children’s Place is a local nonprofit in Chapel Hill, NC that is committed to serving children of incarcerated parents. They are one of the leading advocates and resources in the state for this population. To reserve your tickets go to Our Children’s Place.

According to the Mothers of Bedford website:

Many parents find it hard to imagine being away from a child for a week. Imagine being separated for ten or twenty years? Mothers of Bedford explores the effects of a long-term prison sentence on the mother-child relationship.

The film examines the struggles and joys these five women face as prisoners and mothers. It shows the normal frustrations of parenting as well as the surreal experiences of a child’s first birthday party inside prison, the cell that child lives in with her mother, and the biggest celebration of the year, Mother’s Day in prison! Read More

 

Macro Social Workers: Forging New Opportunities in Non-Traditional Social Work

macrosocialwork
Ritzer’s Integrative Theory of Social Analysis

For many of us social workers, we leave our “comfortable” world of academia and enter the “real world”. More times than not, this reality lends itself to many challenges. For many of us, this means seeking professional opportunities, which we love – if we’re lucky, and many times undesirable opportunities that, at best, afford us a sustainable income to maintain our basic living expenses.

Often times these positions come with “minimal salaries”, especially, as compared to other disciplines. The culture of the social work profession has given the facade that social workers are in their line of the profession because of the “passion, the love, the people, the policy, the mission,” I can go on and on; nonetheless, I think the culture of our profession advocating for and implementing solutions that create increase salaries for social work professional is a must!

Should the topic of “extrinsic rewards” like salary be discussed and/or advocated by social workers? Many would say, well, they’re in it for the intrinsic rewards. While others may offer opposing views, then there are other social work professionals who are neither happy with the intrinsic rewards (current position) or the extrinsic rewards (income) that come with it. Should we feel guilty for wanting to make more attractive/lucrative salaries?

Does our skillset provide us with the essential skills that can transcend across many businesses and organizations – non-profit, and for-profit alike? We macro social workers should not feel guilty about wanting to land opportunities that afford us an income that aligns with other disciplines, may it be business analysts, human resource directors, or project managers, to name a few. After all, did we not go through the same amount of rigorous education as the other M’s (MBA’s, MPA’s, MPH’s to name a few)?

To this avail, for many of us who successfully complete the Macro program, we find ourselves with a set of unique challenges. We don’t fit in the realm of clinical social work. This often leaves us with limited opportunities on the social work front, for us to tap. We are oftentimes not viewed as the most appealing candidate to organizations outside of traditional non-profit agencies in which many social workers gain employment (DHHS, HRSA). However, we all know that continuing to do the same old thing – in terms of work locations, will only produce the same old thing. Furthermore, this will only continue to give the “perceived notion” that we can only work at “XYZ Organization” and that we are only capable of doing “xyz”. This notion will only change as we forge ahead and break from these traditional realms.

Our skill set is “invaluable” and “endless” but society will never see our rich skillset outside the traditional realm without trenching into new and/or non-traditional domains.

The video lends some information that discusses some of the points I addressed. Most importantly, as macro social workers, we are trained to do so many things, and we must be ready to embark in new territories, outside of the traditional realm. After all, is that not what our social work pioneers did? We must continue their legacy in a new and exciting way.

Attached you will find a video by the University of Southern California (USC), entitled, Nontraditional Social Work: Is It for Me? I share this with you in hopes that you will find this video enlightening, or at least thought provoking.

Creating an Instructional Video Using Youtube

Videos have become part of main stream America, just Google Tobuscus or watch the Justin Bieber movie to see the influence of YouTube on their careers. Any Linkster or Y generation kid will know who you are talking about. So what does this have to do with social work? Here is an opportunity and a challenge. The opportunity is to identify and develop client-specific content.

The challenge is to take the next step of creating your own educational videos to address your populations. Video recorders are available for a minimum amount of money or can be obtained on e-bay for even less. Windows 8 comes with free video editing software to make it easy to deliver your educational message. It is not as difficult as you may think…

Here is an excerpt from “How to Craft the Perfect Instructional Video:

We’ve now discussed how to create an effective event and testimonial videos. In this article, we’ll explore how to create an instructional video, which is probably the most scalable form of social media video content.

It’s not bound by the frequency of events or the availability of a testimonial subject (although you may want to feature an outside expert as explained below). Social media in general is a great forum to provide support and the instructional video can be a great tool that helps your customers better use your products.

Instruction options

Any IT related product has an inherent opportunity for the creation of instructional videos. Most software products, whether on web, mobile, or desktop, have many features that customers either aren’t aware of or aren’t familiar with how to use in an optimal way. Creating a series of instructional videos with one video per feature or function is a great way of creating interesting video content that really helps your customers.

For physical goods products, there are a lot of instructional video topics that can stem from how to use the product. For example, cosmetics have an unending instructional video opportunity that can teach people how to look great. The best thing about instructional videos is that they afford you a chance to give customers useful information while featuring what your products can do in a way that directly drives sales.

Links to examples of client-specific videos:

Personal Grooming

How to Interview for a Job : Skills Assessment for a Job Interview

Social Skills for Life: Managing Strong Emotions

Gay Widowers: A Social Role that Lacks Attention

The loss of a loved one, especially a spouse or a partner, is a unique experience that leads individuals into social roles that they are not prepared for; they have had no specific directions on how to become widows and widowers.

51fs6RfThuL._SX323_BO1,204,203,200_Being gay and a widower is a determinant indicator of disenfranchised grief which is also grief that is not usually recognized by the social world. Let me elaborate on this with an example. Just a year ago I started a project to examine how gay men become widowers; how does that experience deliver for their lives and what the meanings and social supports are.

During this journey, of listening to grieving individuals, someone told me that he cannot fill out the social services’ forms anymore. It is unbearable. Why? Because he is a widower, but he was told that as long as there is no legal proof for that, he is just unmarried.

Experiencing a disenfranchised grief indicates three main things. One is lack of recognition of the relationship that existed, so two gay men being together and being married. Secondly, lack of recognition of the loss that is experienced. and finally, lack of recognition of the new social roles that the loss has brought. It is self-explanatory how these three core determinants interconnect and overlap; one becomes the extension of the other.

Gay men are experiencing grief and loss differently than their heterosexual counterparts. Gay grief may lack recognition based on the given society, and when it does the individual moves towards a complicated process of grieving which may lead social work practitioners in clinical practice (as well as other professionals) to interpret certain behaviors as “abnormal” (for lack of a better word) or pathological.

Gay men are struggling with issues of survival after the death of their spouse or partner. Was the marriage recognized? Is the loss recognized? Is there a social support system for the person left behind? How important becomes the social recognition of the grief and the loss per se, in order for the individual to follow through with a healthy process of bereavement as opposed to dwelling on the lack of opportunities that he faces in his community/society?

Social workers work with gay people in any setting, and they can make a difference, starting from understanding the concepts and the meanings of those concepts, that their client-systems deal with. Awareness of possible scenarios may raise skills and knowledge which are crucial in social work practice.

Bereavement should be a free matter, not a socially constructed fashion! One should be able to grieve and mourn for thy loved one, and not hide it behind the social norms that cannot be fair at the time. I will close this post with something that a very close friend of mine in the US told me recently, as he is a gay widower himself.

“Losing my husband was one unbearable thing. But realizing how unwanted I am in my city, made this experience just the worse” – Gay Widower

LGBTQ Issues: Gender-Neutral Toilets (GNTs)

gender-neutral-toilet

Just a week, I sat in a very long meeting regarding Gender Neutral Toilets (GNT’s), and their importance in the academic life of LGBTQ students. I decided to join a very meddlesome LGBTQ society in the UK, which I have to admit has become a rich source for my knowledge and critical thinking on the subject.

During the meeting, and bless my ignorance I asked why is it so important then to have GNTs within a campus. A pause of a few seconds followed, and then a lovely young girl stood up, who we may call Janet for now, and stared right at me and asked me if she looks like a girl. Again, bless my ignorance at the moment, I said yes.

Then, she disclosed in front of everyone that she is a man-to-woman transgender, who has not yet gone through the complete procedure. She looked at me and said, “I actually have to walk for twenty minutes to a public restroom if I want to use one.”

What shocked me? She is a young girl who is still in a process of changing gender and is not welcome in the gents because she is a girl, but she is also not welcome in the ladies because she needs to stand up! What happened to the values of inclusiveness here? Policymakers and decision-makers are still debating on how GNTs are not important. But if there is even one person who is in Janet’s shoes, then it is a necessity to remove every potential risk for the psychological and emotional effect that will have a negative impact later in life on that individual.

I believe in critical thinkers, especially when it comes to social workers. How impacted may an individual’s well-being be if, within a whole university campus, you pay for services (to be delivered to YOU), you mainly find “failure” of delivering a basic service?

I had a talk with her after that disclosure and she told me that she already knew of three transgender people who have dropped out of school, because of the same reasons, and to an extent, transgender in sensitive environments.

I very much wish that this post will raise questions as Janet is teaching us something here. Social Work believes in change. And we are all followers of the same belief and values, regardless of types of practice. LGBTQ client systems may be in any type of social work service provision, and awareness of how our client-system might feel may raise a point for better and more effective practice.

Proof Educational Outcomes for the Poor Can’t be Improved without Social Workers

I am an English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher. I’ve been teaching for seven years. I’m passionate about helping adult immigrants learn the English language. I enjoy learning new cultures and languages. During my experience as a teacher, I’ve had students face difficult circumstances, some of which required referrals for housing, healthcare, legal counsel, or a chance to have their voices heard. I’ve had the opportunity to listen to their stories, provide comfort in their time of need, and be their ear.

The many “thank you” messages I received were moving and humbling. I realized that there is a strong connection between the teaching profession and social work. The problems some of my students had to deal with eventually interfered with their ability to learn English. As a teacher, I was only allowed to teach. To me, that wasn’t enough to help my students; I wanted to do more. I began taking training classes relating to social work.

I received a Family Development credential learning how to empower families in need to become self-reliant. Although I already had an Associate’s degree and a Bachelor’s in English, I went back to school and graduated with an Associate’s in Human Services degree. I’ve taken trainings on case management and read several books about the social work field. I became a member of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), and I am now applying to graduate school for an MSW.

Also, I participate in hosted debates on Twitter regarding issues in the social work field. I’m a determined person, and I believe I can still have a career as a teacher and be a social worker as well. My hope is to continue educating and helping people who live in underserved communities. I have a big heart and want to do my part in making a difference in this world. Someday I hope to have that chance.

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