The Silent Social Worker
When I graduated from Form Six, applying for higher education was a struggle due to my grades. My teachers gave me two options: to either spend a bomb on private education so that I could study what I wanted, or to choose a random subject at a public university and hope to get in. Against my parent’s wishes, I chose the second route, and felt torn when I was notified of my approval. While I was happy to save money on the tuition fee, I was worried about where the course would take me.
Due to the nature of my course, I learnt a lot on social work. As my lecturers thought us about how our country’s economy influenced the different social classes in Malaysia, I couldn’t help but wonder- was there no channel where I could help the underprivileged? When I brought my questions to my peers, many told me to get my head out of the clouds as I didn’t even have enough to support myself, much less anyone else. However, I wasn’t surprised at this response as social work is not the norm in Malaysia. Just because it wasn’t, though, did that mean it had to fall to the wayside? The attitude that most people have towards charity work is that it is a meaningless job that doesn’t pay. Many believe that it brings no value to modern society.
Despite this, nothing could stop me from walking towards social work. As I struggled to decide where to do my internship at, my lecture told me about Great Heart Charity Association, where my seniors had interned at before. Unlike other organisations, Great Heart focuses on helping those who live in poverty. Their services support single-parent families, elderly folk who live alone, the disabled and those stricken with chronic illness. The process of assessing those who need assistance isn’t too complicated, and those who are found eligible receive aid in terms of dialysis treatments, food and healthcare.
What I struggled with the most was with the beneficiaries themselves. More than once I have found discrepancies in what the beneficiaries of our aid say and what their condition actually is. Along with them being eligible for government aid and cases which involve sudden death, I found myself not being able to close cases due to the issues that would arise all of a sudden.
Great Heart focuses on cases in Kuala Lumpur and Selangor, which is very modern but also very human. Those we assess are also very interesting. Some are warm and inviting, offering snacks when we visit, and us having to decline due to their circumstances. Others are calculative, refusing us entry into their home and get very emotional. Many call daily asking if their aid has been given, and tell us that they’re simply awaiting death when the answer is ‘not yet’. Some people are angry when we are unable to provide housing for them, and for others, our aid is their last resort before they decide to borrow money from loan sharks.
What’s common, though, with all these cases, is that they will do anything to survive their harsh environment.
During my internship, I was mostly involved with meeting our beneficiaries, conducting assessments, making records, following up with these cases along with supplying aid. What I worried about the most was that one of the beneficiaries under me would pass on before I could get them the health they did. I wouldn’t be able to live with the regret.
In the six months that I spent with Great Heart, I got to witness the ups and downs of social work, who even gave up their weekends to meet with the beneficiaries; who got to see the worst of society and yet did not give up in their work. Even though I have left to continue on with my studies, I will never forget the work that Great Heart charity has done, and will continue doing.
Author: Wai Dee
Great Heart Charity Association student intern