International work experience bursary winner, working as a charity worker with The Navigators, Kenya

Hannah’s summer work experience opened her to new possibilities and opportunities which she had not considered previously. Upon returning from her placement, she states that, “I am now considering the possibility of getting work experience in either short or long term social work within an international setting, something that I would not have considered previous to my internship. Similarly, I would have confidence applying for jobs in a very multicultural area, or with specific culture groups, as I have more confidence in my cultural awareness, and my ability to interact in a sensitive way with people of different cultures.

“My perspectives on lots of things have changed, and I have learnt to critically evaluate all of my actions. An example of this is thinking about the positive and negative consequences of my actions … this type of thinking is greatly important within the field of social work, and therefore I would feel comfortable applying for jobs dealing with complex situations, as I would have confidence in my ability to consider the best way to resolve such problems.”

What was the experience that helped Hannah to reassess her options? She volunteered as a charity worker in Kenya, where her key roles and responsibilities were to work alongside children and young people in the community. This included building relationships on a pastoral level with people in the community, both on a formal level, which took the form of helping to facilitate religious education lessons in schools and universities, but also building relationships informally with a local youth group and other children in the community. She worked with children aged 5 – 18, providing support within an orphanage setting as well as delivering lessons and facilitating extracurricular activities.

Hannah “learned a wealth of knowledge in terms of international social work, such as the different structural and economic issues that occur, particularly in Kenya, which contribute towards poverty and social divide. Also, as a result of my experiences in Kenya, I have a much greater understanding as to why critical reflection is so important to social work, which will be invaluable to my career as a social worker.”

The biggest difficulty that Hannah experienced in her work experience in Kenya was the short period of time that she was there and the limited impact she was able to make on the community in which she worked. “During my internship I struggled with the fact that I was not able to do more! Although I was able to impact people in my time in Kenya, because the duration of my trip was only 3 weeks, it was very difficult to make long-term sustainable change. Additionally, I discovered that in outreach work in Africa, there are so many barriers to improving the lives of people I was working with. An example of this was working in the rescue centre, which was incredibly poor, and did not have much financial backing at all. This combined with the fact that the education available to these children was not to a high standard, meant that it was hard to see how the situation could be improved, or how the future of these children could be altered.”

“I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity that I had to go to Africa and work with the organisation that I chose. It was an incredible experience, and has influenced me greatly as a person. My experience will help me in my future career, and also make me more employable, and improve my job prospects.”