Friday, 20 February 2015

Social Work Emphasis: Firsthand Student Experience

Our guest blogger, Laura McGarvey, a senior social work major from Indiana Wesleyan University.
This semester I have been placed at Mirembe House for my senior social work practicum.  Throughout my time there I have grown tremendously and have been blessed by the people I have encountered and the ways in which I have been able to be involved.  I have loved getting to know the girls, teaching life skill and discipleship classes, as well as counseling some of the clients.
Mirembe House is a crisis pregnancy center for teen girls in Kampala, the capital city of Uganda.  Many of them have been displaced from their homes or villages because of the shame their pregnancy has caused their family or community.  Because they are left with nowhere to go, Mirembe House offers them a place to stay.  The ministry, part of Youth for Christ International, provides the girls with individual and group counseling, vocational training, life skills education, parenting classes, and Bible studies.  The girls stay at Mirembe until they deliver their baby; re-unification of the family is the end goal.  The heart and mission of the organization is for these girls to encounter Christ and find forgiveness and freedom in Him.
Throughout my time at Mirembe, I have come to understand more fully the importance of being intentional in getting to know my clients in order to establish trust.  Due to what so many of them have gone through, building trust is essential in forming relationships.  It takes time, but getting to know them by showing interest in who they are gives them value and purpose, which is integral since at the core we are all human and desire to be known and loved.  While the teenage girls are at Mirembe, they are cared for and constantly reminded that they have incredible value.  This then creates a sense of self-worth and impacts not only how they see themselves, but also how they view their babies.
A few weeks ago I had the amazing opportunity to be a part of a reunion for women who had lived at Mirembe and are now a part of the Starfish Program which sponsors the mothers and their children to go to school.  It was great being able to meet the mothers who had gone through Mirembe's program and hear their testimonies regarding the impact the organization had on them as well as how they encountered Christ through their time there.  At the beginning of the reunion, the women were divided up into groups to discuss the theme of that day which was hope, and I was asked last minute to lead one of the groups.  At first I was nervous about how I was going to use up all the time allotted to talk about hope, but the women engaged really well and were able to share about what hope meant to them.  They talked about how God brought, and continues to bring, hope to their circumstances.  It was truly a humbling experience since I was leading a discussion on hope but yet they had a clearer understanding of hope than I have ever had.  They blessed me tremendously, and it was great to see what God has been doing in their lives now since their time at Mirembe House.  I have never met women with so much hope, not because they have never experienced the challenges of the darkness, but rather because they understand it all too well.  The hard times in their lives have allowed them to experience hope in a beautiful way. 
Another wonderful opportunity I was given recently was to go to the hospital to visit one of the girls who had recently delivered her baby.  Through this experience I was able to gain a better understanding of some of the difficulties present for the teenage girls at Mirembe who are away from their families, have minimal resources for themselves and their child, and are learning for the first time as teenagers how to parent. 

            When we arrived back at Mirembe from the hospital, there was much excitement as the staff and also the girls were ecstatic to hold the baby.  We then gathered around the new mom and her newborn child and I was asked to pray a prayer of blessing over them.  I felt so humbled to be able to have the privilege to pray over the life of this newborn baby and her mom.  As we gathered around, it was such a beautiful picture of community and the African value of collectivism and relying on one another.  No one is alone on their journey, and that was evidenced during this experience as I saw the whole community of Mirembe helping to care for the child and her mother through this new, exciting, and scary chapter of her life.  As I stood there holding the baby in my arms, it truly struck me how God brings such beauty and hope out of brokenness.  I feel incredibly blessed and humbled to be able to do my social work practicum at an organization which truly cares for these teenage girls who are hurting and desires, above all else for them to encounter Christ and find forgiveness and freedom in Him.  There is nothing more beautiful than knowing and believing that truth.

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