In 2000, the Social Welfare Department introduced the Lump Sum Grant (LSG) to help NGOs lighten burden costs in hopes of increasing social workers’ resources and recruitment flexibility. Yet because resources are ultimately limited, social workers still spend an overwhelming amount of time and manpower away from fieldwork, toiling away on fundraising and organizational works at the desk.
Social workers spend everyday assisting families in need, providing counseling and direction to people with complicated psychological, health, and financial or social problems. They selflessly dedicate their time to helping those who otherwise have little way of bettering their situations. Including administrative work, everyday, Hong Kong’s social workers labor over 50 hour-plus workweeks, many of them carrying the emotional burden of their jobs home.
In an issue of Scenario—a Hong Kong Council of Social Service (HKCSS) publication—Noel Yeung, Executive Secretary of the Kwun Tong Methodist Social Service, speaks from 10 plus years of experience as a social worker, and describes a social worker’s life as one that “is constantly immersed in living and breathing problems.”
While the nature of the job is challenging, Yeung believes that at small or middle-sized organizations, social workers are more able to be flexible, especially at targeting services. She explains, “because resources are limited, the upper and lower echelons both invest themselves heavily in the cause. Without government interference or bureaucratic hindrances, we are able to speak freely and act effectively.”
The Foundation believes that like Yeung, our social workers are the engineers of our society, the frontrunners in our community, and the pillars of our city. Together with HKCSS and St. James Settlement (SJS), the Foundation launched “The March of Social Engineers” campaign—an offshoot of the “Love Ideas Love HK” movement—to lend our “social engineers” a helping hand, and help them focus on what they do best.
Josephine Lee, deputy director of SJS explains, the strongest driving force behind any new project is the possibility of creating unique solutions to persisting problems. Social workers are equipped with unprecedented experience and understanding, and often discover new angles to tackling existing issues.
In their “Funeral Navigation Services” for example, social workers created a unique solution to encourage positivity and courage in face of the traditional taboo of death. They came up with the “Volunteers Pay Homage With You” service, accompanying single wheelchair users to worship their relatives. Volunteers found that aside from providing individuals with physical aid, they were also able to give these individuals a sense of peace.
The trust built from these projects extends beyond the immediate goals of the project itself. As an added benefit, the elderly were able to face their final journeys with tranquility. This unprecedented initiative completed a sense of belonging that the elderly should rightfully have for their final days.
Lee elaborates, “Our colleagues are constantly looking for new solutions, because of their dedicated passion towards bettering lives. My colleague has a motto: “Creativity does not have to be complicated, but the gist is to see the problem from the perspective of those who are experiencing it, and start from there…” Ultimately, seeing change in those lives they touched upon, is their greatest reward.”
The goal of “The March of Social Engineers” program is to bridge the gap between idea and reality. If we are able to lend a helping hand to our “social engineers”, and give further strength to their dedication, then they would continue to light up every corner of our community.