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Dr Robert Edinger with Son David


MSW, Masters Social Work, HIV/AIDS, UK

My introduction to social work was one of a deeply personal nature.  In 1994, I met my first husband – now deceased – a single dad with three children under 16.  They had lost their mother, and my husband had found it extremely difficult to care for his children, making the emotional decision to send them to be cared for by relatives.  While the children were shuffled from one home to another, they suffered emotionally, socially and psychologically.  When my husband and I learned of their problems, I advocated to bring them to us, and took on the responsibility of finding them a school, getting them ready every day, doing all I could to be a good mum.  Despite the stability in their lives, my stepdaughter started having nightmares, slept poorly, and would frequently faint during the day; once she was nearly struck by a car during a fainting spell.  She indicated she heard her mother’s voice telling her to come home and if she did not she felt a huge snake being wrapped around her.  I quit my job, and cared for her full-time, getting a specialist to help.  It was determined she was suffering emotionally and psychologically from the changes in her life, and Social Services were alerted, thus her counseling began.  While doctors and nurses tend to a patient’s body, a social worker is assigned to attend to the ordeal, the mind and the heart, an integral and equally important member of a multidisciplinary team of healthcare professionals.  I was struck by the breadth of the work, and the range of knowledge of the social worker.  Equally impressive and eye- opening was the social workers insights into the situation, and thoughtful examination of the steps, and stresses that led to the point of crisis.

 It was not until 2000 that her nightmares ended and her life returned to normality.  However, a new waking nightmare began when my husband tested HIV+.  After the initial shock and grief, I undertook HIV testing, and was negative.  I turned to my faith, asking God for guidance.  Our lives changed in many ways, keeping our plight to ourselves for fear of being socially ostracized or stigmatized, and to protect our children.  Having lost many friends, relatives and neighbors in Uganda to AIDS, I was well aware of the devastating effects of the disease on families and entire communities.  Getting the children tested was the next step, and thankfully, the results were negative.  Because of my personal experiences, I have advised and counselled people affected by HIV/AIDS, and have encouraged many of my relatives, colleagues and friends to be tested as a preventative measure.  Doing all I can, I have advised people of the risks of unprotected sex and the prudence of being tested before marriage, to consider the consequences of living with HIV/AIDS.

 My husband died in 2002 in an automobile accident.  To our children’s credit, and my efforts to emphasize their education they have all excelled in school and their careers.  Being remarried, I was blessed with a little girl, but I ended this marriage due to my husband’s violent tendencies.  As a single mum, I have found that my daughter is a massive motivation for my going back to school, teaching me to love again, and the joy of teaching.  I want to make her world a better place, for her and for her neighbors to share.  Moreover, I feel there is no better time to become involved in Social Work.  In the midst of our country’s greatest economic crisis in recent memory, the impact on England in general has been palpable, making the pool of underserved citizens even greater.  The importance of affecting change, right now, cannot be underscored enough.  Turning to UXX was the natural and logical choice.

 I bring with me to the student body one year of paid Social Care Sector work experience.  In addition, whilst performing work as a Home Care Assistant for Service Users in their own homes, providing personal care for the elderly and the disabled, I came to realize that my contribution was more than just fulfilling a job: I was adding value to the lives of people.  I was encouraging my clients to better themselves physically, emotionally and psychologically, doing for themselves, challenging them and bringing them a sense of accomplishment.  Through my experiences, I have developed an impressive knowledge base especially in the area of social services, and an innate ability to work with difficult or vulnerable clients.  Furthermore, having worked with flexible and effective teams, I will be a valuable addition to the community of Social Workers.

 Previously, I had worked as an Advisor with XXXX, assessing clients’ entitlement for benefits, assisting them with job searches, and giving out information about training and courses. Many experienced barriers to employment such as a lack of qualifications, disabilities, and English as a second language.  For these clients, I worked tirelessly, multitasking and advocating for them with employers, getting them into the job market.  Social Work offers this type of personal and professional satisfaction, as well.  I anticipate learning how to better assist people in accessing the services they need, to fit their unique circumstances.  My compassion and sensitivity combined with listening and interpersonal skills, makes me suited to the work.  My own experiences have developed my perseverance, and where a client lacks the strength to face the next day, I will be their support.  In reality, I see that I have the attributes, extensive experience and skills in place to contribute positively to Social Work, lacking only the title.

 Post-graduation, I anticipate, upon building my exposure, becoming an HIV/AIDS Social Worker or Coordinator, advocating for victims of the disease, especially children and teens.  Eventually, I would like to set up a centre for people from Black and Ethnic Minority groups.  I have seen and experienced the deficit of relevant services for people from socio-economically depressed backgrounds, and statistically, many are minorities.  Information and services need to reach and attend to these groups at all costs; the poor, the sick and the needy.  In the golden age of equal opportunity, we need also remember equal access.  It is up to the social worker in conjunction with parents, teachers and prominent community members to identify at-risk populations, not just teens, but also immigrants struggling to become acculturated, and other silent minorities.  It is our responsibility to educate everyone about the potential risks.  Where we cannot prevent what damage has been done, the social worker can do a great deal to reduce the impact of the all-too-real challenges.

 Social workers need to do more to convince health insurance providers and employers of the importance of providing time off, as well as covering the cost of social programs.  More provisions need to be made to aid the parents of young children, or those who care for an elderly parent(s) as many people only get help after they hit bottom.  Rather than simply finding appropriate programs for those in need, more quality programming needs to be developed, funded and sustained.  And above all, waiting lists need to be reduced or eliminated completely.

 Having been there before, and equipping myself with an MSW, I would be the ideal sounding board, a soft place to fall, for the people I counsel.  When I see a client in a hole they cannot get out of, I will get in the hole with them.  I will be able to tell them not to worry, I have been here before, and I know the way out.

 Coming from Uganda, coupled with my travels, I have a worldview that is quite different from my academic peers.  I do not mention this simply to increase the diversity of the student body.  Completing my undergraduate education in England, as well as living and working here, I developed an ability to interact effectively with not only my fellow colleagues, but since having experienced life as, basically, an immigrant, I feel particularly sensitive to the needs of many minorities; combined with this is my ability to speak four languages competently.  As a result, I am able to speak confidently in front of groups of people, and am very comfortable in my own skin.

 There is a need to reach out to our diverse clients, to understand and appreciate our differences, be it cultural or socioeconomic, an appreciation of the rich tapestry of life that we are all a part of on earth.  A future Social Worker needs to be able to interact effectively with people of differing cultures, ethnicities, nationalities and creeds.  This is critically important given the vast influx of person with varied backgrounds into the British healthcare system.  Given my cultural competency, I feel I will be completely adept at reaching out to my diverse clients, no matter their country of origin.  This is what I bring to the student body, as well, one in which I anticipate many opportunities for group assignments, teamwork and projects.

 University of East London is my sole choice for scholastic development.  In the most practical terms, UXX is highly accessible, as I live close by.  Even more importantly, though, I have been impressed by the relevance of the curriculum, one that takes into account that mature students or those with existing degrees are able to undertake advanced studies; I truly appreciate this accommodation.  I anticipate an educational experience with UXX that is unsurpassed, the ideal exposure, and unparalleled access to resources.  No other curriculum could match such relevance.

 Thank you for your time and consideration.

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