Hello Friends, My name is Paula and I am a Social Service Worker, student at Mohawk College doing my placement at Helping Hands Street Mission. I began my placement in September of 2015, and have to complete 400hrs; I have to be honest as at first I thought “what am I doing here”; What exactly am I doing here? I have always wanted to be an outreach worker, and felt that I would not get any learning out of this placement. I definitely didn’t want to be here, and made it very clear to my placement coordinator. She told me although I may feel this way now, in time I would see why she placed me there. I have to admit, for weeks I tried to see what she meant, and just couldn’t. After all my role here was to sort through donations, help friends with finding clothing, handing out coffee and sometimes help in the art group. Where was the learning? I just couldn’t see it, I wanted to be an outreach worker, and wanted to be out there pounding the pavement, helping those in need. This was just not the place for me, and again after a few short weeks, I again went back to my placement coordinator and stated this to her. Again she told me that she placed me there for a reason and I would see it. I felt defeated and thought I might as well just finish my hours and move on. Those were my intentions, so I was resigned to the fact that she was not going to move me, and decided to just complete my hours.
So I wasn’t going anywhere, and as I began to accept this, something was changing in me. I began to see the value in being here, I began to see the service I was providing was a meaningful one, and every bag I sorted through, I knew that someone was going to have clothing, and someone was going to be warm this winter because I cared enough to hang that winter coat, and give them a pair of winter boots. I knew that everything I took for granted every day, I was giving to someone else. I learned that being an SSW didn’t mean I had to pound the pavement to help others. That this was a place that those same people that I would be helping out there, were walking in to Helping Hands, and that I was there to greet them, make them feel they were loved, and accepted. A smile was all it took sometimes, and I had lots of smiles to give, and every time I helped someone get a coat on, I knew that they were going to be warm, because I was there. I began to see that God was at work in this place, and those words came back to haunt me from my placement coordinator. I knew why she placed my there; I had been through the same things my friends here had been through, and had changed my life dramatically. I believed in God, but here I had witnessed His Hands at work, and He began His work in me.
I definitely learned that being a Social Service Worker isn’t always sitting behind a desk in a warm office; that sometimes it was just being at the right place at the right time. And I was at the RIGHT place at the RIGHT time in my life. Being at Helping Hands Street Mission has taught me so much, the lessons I have learned and continue to learn are priceless, and only Jesus knows exactly why I placed here. He had a mission for me, and becoming a Social Service Worker was only the beginning, and that Helping Hands Street Mission would light the way. I would just pray that other people, be it students or otherwise, stay long enough to see what I saw and continue to see. To be a part of something bigger than myself, a place that relies solely on private donations and works hard to stay open to help others, a place filled with compassion and empathy for each and every person who walks through those doors, and a places that continues to empower those who feel destitute; this is what being a Social Service Worker is supposed to be a part of. I know now why my placement coordinator sent me to Helping Hands Street Mission, the learning that I continue to get from the staff, volunteers, and our friends is invaluable, and cannot be taught in a classroom.