by Zeni Thumbadoo, Deputy Director, National Association of Child Care Workers, South Africa
The indigenous African philosophy of Ubuntu, expressed in isiZulu as ‘Umuntu Ngumuntu Ngabantu’ means that people are people through other people. Bishop Desmond Tutu said that this is the gift that Africa will give the world. Ubuntu speaks to walking the extra mile for the sake of others. Former US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton widely promoted the philosophy of Ubuntu in the well know quotation "it takes a whole village to raise a child". On the 20th anniversary of the International Year of the Family, as we contribute to its motto of "building the smallest democracy at the heart of society," we applaud and acknowledge social service workers across the globe. The social service workforce represents a diverse range of workers working in different contexts; working at different levels - local, national, regional, and international; working as professionals and paraprofessionals; working with different methodologies; and working together to serve the best interests of families. In this ' village,' diverse social service workers are working together to ‘raise’ children, families and communities. Strengthening the resilience of families to cope with their unique challenges in a changing and diverse global world is the role of social service workers.
In reclaiming our unity in diversity as social service professionals, we strengthen our multi-disciplinary teamwork. All social service workers – social workers, child and youth care workers, youth development workers, community workers and others – come together to put families at the center of integrated service delivery. Together this united yet diverse social service workforce contributes to promoting the inherent strengths of families and their capacity for self-reliance.
We recognize that families are diverse in their forms and functions and that it is this uniqueness, the diversity of individual preferences in their special societal conditions, that allows a society to grow and expand. We celebrate in our work the diverse family forms – the extended family, the nuclear family, the single parent family, the same -sex parents family, the child-headed family – some of these stretching the traditionally known paradigms and creating space for innovative engagement from social service workers.
Social service workers promote the inherent strengths in families through services that are child centered, family focused and community based. In this, we honor the teachings and lessons of the past, the opportunity for innovation and creativity in the present and the vision of an inspiring future. We have learned that families need diverse capacities to support them and respond to their unique needs. They require us as social service workers to grow and innovate as we respond to the changing world in which we all find ourselves. We acknowledge that now is the moment to demonstrate integrated services involving all social service workers in organized and well-coordinated service delivery. We celebrate the opportunities that are open to us in this committed partnership for families.
The Global Social Service Workforce Alliance is committed to promoting a well-planned, well-developed and well-supported social service workforce on this 20th anniversary of the International Year of the Family. The global 'village' of social service workers is connected in the spirit of Ubuntu which speaks to caring for others in order to promote interconnectedness and a spirit of belonging. Ubuntu acknowledges both the rights and the responsibilities of every citizen in promoting individual and societal well-being.
We invite you to read more about the work of this diverse workforce and the ways in which it puts families at the center of its work. For example, a number of documents on the Alliance resource database highlight the role of community workers. You can also read about the specific experiences of a number of members of the workforce, such as A Technical Brief on Child and Youth Care Workers in South Africa.
We are also featuring worker profiles today that shine a spotlight on various tasks and training of different types of workers in southern Africa. They offer personal reflections on what motivates them to do this challenging work. Please take some time to read these worker profiles on our website:
- Chioniso Mangando, Case Care Worker in Zimbabwe
- Mercy Marima, Case Care Worker in Zimbabwe
- Jakes Jacobs, Community Child and Youth Care Worker, South Africa
We have also compiled for today a number of social service worker success stories:
- A New Zest for Life: The Difference Made by a social service volunteer in Ethiopia
- Phelisanang Bophelong Promotes Community Solutions in Lesotho
And we invite you to review the webinars on Working with Community Members and Workers in the Social Services and Deinstitutionalizing the Alternative Care System for Children: Implications for the social service workforce with learning from Rwanda and Moldova.
We believe that social service workers around the world in all their proud diversity promote the spirit of Ubuntu in their service to children and families. It does take a village to raise a child ....it does take a 'village' of social service workers to protect, support and service families. The smallest democracy in society, the family, is celebrated during this social service worker week, with deep respect and care.