I have faced the question “why Social work?” from friends and family many times, because I had gotten up to a managerial level whilst working in a different field and they always believe that to be a sign of excellence and growth. Especially, because, studying again as a mature student can be very stressful and challenging. Also, social work is a highly politicised career to pursue, on one hand, we can influence policies, and, on another hand, we are limited by the same policies. Also, as an international student coming to the UK to study means limited income and tight budgeting, due to limit on the number of hours we can work while studying, thus, as someone who was working and earning a decent income it looked so strange a decision to pursue a masters degree in a totally different field that would lead to a change of career path. But I always ended up with the same response. I need fulfilment. Why?
I grew up in a country with huge inequality and little or no social welfare. That has never been something I was comfortable with, because, even though my parents could provide quality education, good meal, neat clothes and fanciful shelter for me and my siblings we had most of the population especially children living below £1 a day. I was opportune to see this inequality when I did my compulsory service in a rural community in the country. I also read the publication of some popular figures like Rosa Parks and Nelson Mandela during this period, and I found myself questioning the extreme poverty and lack in the community. Especially, the lives of orphans whose parents suffer from HIV and are discriminated against in the community. Alot of them were not in schools because that is seen as a luxury for people who could barely eat a decent meal or have their physiological needs met.
At this moment, I channelled into my inner JF Kennedy famous word “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country,” I searched on ways to help and I was able to work with a non-profit organisation to come into the community and we were able to start taking care of the orphans and vulnerable adults by taking them to clinic appointments, providing food, clothing, shelter and the children began public schooling, with the help of the state government and other donors we were able to provide vocational trainings for their parents to help them be independent and build their dignity.
I volunteered for 10 years as a Monitoring and Evaluation officer, using my skills and sometimes resources to make sure the people had hope and fulfilment. Whilst doing my everyday job I always found time for the children and family project, I was in my element when I did this and no matter how much I earned, my true happiness was in serving and giving back to the children and their families. I have always been blessed with the skill of proper multi-tasking ability, so my career was never affected neither was the volunteering programme. When the pandemic happened, I saw it as an opportunity to do something different than what I was doing at that moment. I finally made up my mind to pursue happiness and fulfilment than just monetary benefits and for that reason I dropped a career of over 10 years to start afresh.
Now, I am done with my first placement and starting my final year, with all I am achieving, the question in my lips is “why not social work?”, this programme is building me to be a better version of myself, empathy and patience is now a way of life and my trust in the good of humanity is never in doubt. Yes, I might not be able to solve every issue, I might suffer from impostor syndrome, but I will continue to give my best, because “the only tired I was, was tired of giving in.”
To hear more from Momoh, listen to the Social Work, Cats and Rocket Science Black History Month podcast episode 5