Theresa Martin, a social worker at Axis Primary Care Clinic in Cloverdale, says the pandemic has been a learning experience for her over the past year. (submitted photo)

Theresa Martin, a social worker at Axis Primary Care Clinic in Cloverdale, says the pandemic has been a learning experience for her over the past year. (submitted photo)

COVID-19

‘Social work doesn’t stop’: The job of protecting those made vulnerable by pandemic

Surrey-area social worker reflects on the learning experience of one challenging year

It’s been a busy yet rewarding year for B.C.’s 5,000-plus social workers, who have helped people navigate their way through the many challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Like her colleagues in the business, Theresa Martin never stopped working.

“Social work doesn’t stop, and that was a big thing for us, that while everything else stopped, we didn’t stop, we kept working,” Martin said. “We put on our PPE and away we went, you know, so clients were getting what they needed.”

Last fall, in the middle of the pandemic, Martin took a job at Cloverdale’s Axis Primary Care Clinic, another step in her two decades of social work.

From March 14-20, she and other social workers in the province paused to celebrate work done over the past year during Social Work Week in B.C., as declared by the Minister of Children and Family Development.

This year’s theme is “Social work is essential,” emphasizing how social workers are, according to BC Association of Social Workers (BCASW), “essential to meeting the immediate needs of those carrying the pain of loss, essential to those navigating overwhelming uncertainty imposed on peoples’ lives, essential to addressing the profound systemic racism thrust into the spotlight by the pandemic, and essential to advocating to reconcile the economic, health and social inequalities glaringly exposed by not only COVID-19, but efforts to flatten curve as well.”

The BCASW is a voluntary, not-for-profit membership association that supports and promotes the profession of social work and advocates for social justice.

“The world shifted dramatically one year ago with the arrival of a global pandemic and introduced challenges and uncertainty for us all,” BCASW president Michael Crawford said in a news release. “Social workers kept working, changing the way we practice, and often putting ourselves at risk to protect those made vulnerable by the pandemic.”

Martin, a Langley resident, said the pandemic has been a learning experience for her.

“I’ve learned a lot,” she said. “For me, the learning was how to reach out even more, in a more team-based way, connecting more with my colleagues, with our association, in a way that I don’t think we did previously. Building that essential connection with our colleagues was certainly something that really spoke to me.”

For Martin and others in social work, the job is to connect clients to resources and help them navigate systems in order for them to receive the help they need.

The pandemic challenged such clients to access resources like never before.

“Even more, we helped people navigate through systems,” Martin said, “to figure out how we’re going to help people get food, how we can help them get lab work done, how will they get banking done when the banks are closed and they don’t have a computer to do that. So we navigated through those systems to look at ways to work in new ways, to not only keep ourselves safe but keep our clients safe as well.”

Social work must be done with compassionate empathy, Martin underlined.

“We’ve been doing that in a disaster – and that’s what this (pandemic) was, or is, it’s a disaster,” she added. “It’s really about giving hope. I think at the beginning, that was a big question for many of us: Is hope ever going to come through all of this? And here we are, still trying to get through this and it’s going to be OK, we’re in this together, let’s be kind, let’s be calm – and yes, we’re really using what Bonnie Henry says,” she said with a laugh.

“In that way, it’s been about finding ground for clients who just felt like their life was, like, nothing – people losing their jobs, people having anxiety and depression. They just needed some comfort and compassion to say, how are we going to get through, how to apply for EI, CERB and the different supports that helped them. A lot of them just didn’t know what to do, and that’s how we have helped.”



tom.zillich@surreynowleader.com

Like us on Facebook Follow us on Instagram and follow Tom on Twitter

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Sports broadcaster and 30-year high school football coach Farhan Lalji. (Image via farhanlalji.com)
Farhan Lalji chats about the new B.C. high school sports governance proposal

Lalji, a 30-year high school football coach, thinks the new proposal will be bad for student athletes

Delta character - and former White Rock resident - Pansy May Stuttard inspects a loaded revolver in the cover photo for Jim Dwight and Gary Cullen’s fascinating biography, Lord don’t want me Devil won’t take me. Contributed photo
West Coast’s ‘Pistol-packin’ Pansy’ lives on in colourful biography

Infamous Delta character ended her days in White Rock and South Surrey

Surrey city Councillor Brenda Locke. (File photo)
Surrey councillor trying to get policing referendum on the table, again

‘I’m sending it back for clarification,’ mayor decides

(Photo: MOSAIC/Facebook)
Organization receives $10K from B.C. government to tackle racism in Surrey, White Rock

Funding to go toward forum for International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

Vancouver resident Beryl Pye was witness to a “concerning,” spontaneous dance party that spread throughout social groups at Kitsilano Beach on April 16. (Screen grab/Beryl Pye)
VIDEO: Dance party erupts at Vancouver’s Kitsilano Beach to the dismay of onlookers

‘It was a complete disregard for current COVID-19 public health orders,’ says Vancouver resident Beryl Pye

Pall Bearers carrying the coffin of the Duke of Edinburgh, followed by the Prince of Wales, left and Princess Anne, right, into St George’s Chapel for his funeral, at Windsor Castle, in Windsor, England, Saturday April 17, 2021. (Danny Lawson/Pool via AP)
Trudeau announces $200K donation to Duke of Edinburgh award as Prince Philip laid to rest

A tribute to the late prince’s ‘remarkable life and his selfless service,’ the Prime Minister said Saturday

B.C. homeowners are being urged to take steps to prepare for the possibility of a flood by moving equipment and other assets to higher ground. (J.R. Rardon)
‘Entire province faces risk’: B.C. citizens urged to prepare for above-average spring flooding

Larger-than-normal melting snowpack poses a threat to the province as warmer weather touches down

Vancouver-based Doubleview Gold Corp. is developing claims in an area north of Telegraph Creek that occupies an important place in Tahltan oral histories, said Chad Norman Day, president of the Tahltan Central Government. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO)
B.C. Indigenous nation opposes mineral exploration in culturally sensitive area

There’s “no way” the Tahltan would ever support a mine there, says Chad Norman Day, president of its central government

Stz’uminus Elder George Harris, Ladysmith Mayor Aaron Stone, and Stz’uminus Chief Roxanne Harris opened the ceremony. (Cole Schisler photo)
Symbolic red dresses rehung along B.C. highway after vandals tore them down

Leaders from Stz’uminus First Nation and the Town of Ladysmith hung new dresses on Sat. April 17

A Western toadlet crosses the centre line of Elk View Road in Chilliwack on Aug. 26, 2010. A tunnel underneath the road has since been installed to help them migrate cross the road. Saturday, April 24 is Save the Frogs Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Progress File)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of April 18 to 24

Save the Frogs Day, Love Your Thighs Day and Scream Day are all coming up this week

Local carpenter Tyler Bohn embarked on a quest to create the East Sooke Treehouse, after seeing people build similar structures on a Discovery Channel show. (East Sooke Treehouse Facebook photo)
PHOTOS: B.C. carpenter builds fort inspired by TV’s ‘Treehouse Masters’

The whimsical structure features a wooden walking path, a loft, kitchen – and is now listed on Airbnb

The Attorney General’s Ministry says certain disputes may now be resolved through either a tribunal or the court system, pending its appeal of a B.C. Supreme Court decision that reduced the tribunal’s jurisdiction. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Court of Appeal grants partial stay in ruling on B.C. auto injuries

B.C. trial lawyers challenged legislation brought in to cap minor injury awards and move smaller court disputes to the Civil Resolution Tribunal

An Extinction Rebellion Vancouver Island (XRVI) climate change event in 2019 saw a large crowd occupy the Johnson Street bridge. Black Press File Photo
‘In grief for our dying world’: B.C. climate activists embark on 4-day protest

Demonstrators will walk through Vancouver for the first two days before boarding a ferry Sunday morning

Most Read