Self-awareness is an important characteristic for any human service provider (Almeida, et al, 2011). It is a means that explains how a worker accesses the flow of unprocessed tacit and experience (Nin, 1939-1944, Epstein, 1999). It is for this reason that I wish to share my experience concerning this practice of which I engaged myself on. I am a Latina immigrant, and I have been living in New York for the past 12 years. Currently, I am working in an organization dealing with domestic violence. The populations I serve mainly consist of women and their children. At first, life in New York appeared hard to cope with; I had just arrived in a new country, trying to learn about the new community, their culture among many things. The feeling of living behind friends and family members was overwhelming. I had little idea of these drastic changes. Though I had to leave behind everything, the United States country offered me a safe place to start over. I had to do some more than one job to pay for my tuition fees.
I have learned some important things while in New York, but luckily, I found a mentor who guided me through life and encouraged me to keep going on. She is part of the reason I decided to take up my current job, because deep down, I had the desire to help other people who were undergoing what I went through when I first moved to this country. Through her guidance, I have been able to study, more about women rights, and earlier works of great women rights activists including Edward, (1971), Friedman, 1995), among others. These activists encouraged women to break free from their traditions and fight for their equal rights (Borne, and Henderson, (2014). Particularly, I liked the ideas of Unger and Crawford, (1992) who were women activists. As an Immigrant, I believe that the United States was the best country for women to exercise their rights, and I have all intentions of taking advantage of this opportunity while thriving in this land. Based on the insights and experiences I came across, the current freedom and recognition of women in America has occurred because of the struggles of pioneer activists. We therefore need to identify our rights in whatever social status we are and fight for them accordingly (Borne, and Henderson, (2014)
When I first approached my mentor for help, I was in a state of helplessness. This owed to my state of being new in the City and trying to settle down to the new environment. I had psychological issues, and I was desperate to talk somebody. My mentor took charge of the all the counseling sessions as she guided through an emotionally delicate path. According to Finn, (2003 p 268), an effective social professional ought to analyze the state of the patient and how that condition is affecting him or her. I was the patient who was indeed in need of psychological assistance from an expert, a mentor who could guide me through the new environment, and who I could go for psychological help given I had to leave behind my family members. She was the closest thing to a family member I could get in New York back then. My counselor, on the other hand, was a native of the United States and a resident of New York since childhood, so it is safe to assume everything there was to know about New York City.
I first meet my mentor while working at a restaurant, when she came in for launch in a company of her other colleagues. I saw her job card as I was serving them, and afterward, when they were through with their lunch, I asked for her business card, because, both she and I did not have time to talk, she kindly obliged. Later that day after my shift I gave her a call, and her reaction was positive, she gave an appointment. On meeting her for the first time at her office, she was touched with what I told her. She even offered to be my mentor for no extra cost. Through her support I am where I am today, she changed my perception in life. Feinstein (1994) argues that, a good social worker should show tolerance and never biased when listening to a patient.
When my mentor came in for lunch at the restaurant, I was not sure what her reaction would be, especially putting into consideration my status in the society. I was prepared for rejection because it would not be the first time someone turned me down when I went to them for help. Her presentation was too official and in some way intimidating for people like us, who were working than one to make ends meet. But at the same time, I had to try my best since I saw this as a window of opportunity that had presented itself. To my surprise, her reaction was receptive and positive.
From my 12 years in New York City, I have learned that opportunities are there for everyone, as long as one puts in more efforts nothing is given on a silver platter. For instance, I can fend for my tuition fee by working part time. I may not have made millions, but at least, one can live a comfortable life without the fear of their property or home being stolen or raided unlike life back at home. Another lesson I have learned is that the United State is a land where freedom and equality are highly treasured (Goodman, 2011). Therefore, I will endeavor to protect the rights of all individuals. Accordingly, it is possible to make it life as a woman here, unlike home where women were treated as second-class citizens. In New York City is a cosmopolitan city where the issues of cultural difference are at their minimal.
As they say, every coin must have two sides; the downside of life in New York is the same aspect of the city being multicultural. Everyone was busy minding his or her own business; the city residents were divided into economic classes; the upper first class, the middles class, and lower class. Life at the bottom class was turf; it meant putting in more working hours and less resting time. Also, one had to work more than one job to make ends meet. This long restless period took a toll on my life, considering I had school to attend. At some point, I had to take a break from school because I could not manage both at the same time. While working at some jobs, I encountered some oppressive supervisors, who underpaid me or asked for sexual favors from me. As for upper and middle class, their life was easier; in fact, they felt like they were entitled. According to Finn and Jacobson(2003), oppression acts to devalue, denigrate, silence, and stigmatize individuals based on their differences in race, class, sexual orientation, age, ability, and gender.
As a result of this, I was particularly cautious when approaching men in general, because of the feeling I developed after my encounter with the supervisor. In regards to the common members of the society, my opinion towards them was, they were too self-centered, egocentric people who had no regards to other members of the community like me, but I changed my mind when I first met my mentor albeit slightly. The story is grim when it comes to lower class citizens and minority groups. Their standards of living were bad; sometimes I felt they were not doing enough to change the situation. I never asked for help from men, in the case of, the middle class I was caution when approaching them.
There is nothing I could have done differently from what my counselor did. Good social professionals should be able to approach every situation without being biased (Brill, and Levine, 2005) Indeed, she approached my case in a professional manner. She showed empathy, compassion, and kindness; she was the one that encouraged me to go college and study to better my life. She could resonate with my issues almost immediately, in a manner to suggest she could relate to my story. She approached my case with a straight clear face, even though she showed empathy, at no point did she be judgmental regardless of what I told her, unlike my past experiences with people. She was encouraged to move on, work hard in life and strive to use my ideas to help others who might be going through the same experiences I going through. I will endeavor to emulate her behavior in my profession.
It is for that reason that I decided to take up my current job. My focus is to help women and children to who are suffering from the effects of domestic violence, encouraging them that there is still hope while still reminding them there is power in sharing because that is the first thing in healing. Leary, (2005) explains that, there is still something good that can come out of an oppressive environment. While trying to inspire the young children to go to school and work hard to better their future lives, it is imperative for every social worker to be able to empower the communities they live in (Zastrow, 2009). I always share my story with them, encouraging them not to give up in life. The most important thing is to keep up the hope and dreams and aspiration high, this country of so many great opportunities; the only important thing is to keep working towards their dreams and hope without losing focus in the process.
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