By Brooke Faulkner
If you’ve obtained your education in social work, you may be in a space now to ask yourself where your skills can make the most difference. Social work is carried out by people trained to help those in need, a definition which carries across political, cultural, and physical borders. This means you can take your social work degree to other continents.
The Eurasian continent makes up the majority of the global population and, as such, is a place rife with the need for social work. China and India alone make up approximately 1.3 and 1.2 billion people, respectively. If you consider that the population of the entire world is over 7.5 billion, the sheer amount of people in Eurasia is demonstrably staggering.
It’s important to note that social work is often viewed as a progressive ideal, and because of that, programs associated with it can be the slowest to arrive in rural, less-developed parts of the world. Even once social programs arrive in isolated regions, they may not always be quickly embraced. This is all the more reason freshly graduated social workers should consider taking assignments in rural Eurasia.
Rural Communities Have the Desire to Improve
In countries that have developed at a slower pace than major former imperial or colonial powers, progressive ideas like assistance programs can be slower to take root. This can be especially true in rural communities, where members have historically had to rely on one another as opposed to figures of authority like the government. In fact, in some places, the government itself may be the entity telling people that assistance programs are a bad idea.
However, with technology becoming more and more prevalent globally, people are able to get more diverse information at an increasing rate. This is especially true for young people on social media, who, by self-selecting their news sources as opposed to accepting those widely distributed, are able to discern for themselves what they want to support or believe in. In this way, they can become impassioned and active members of their community — and this passion can potentially be an asset to a social worker in a conservative rural area.
While censored or filtered information can still be prevalent in rural Eurasian communities, the ideal of helping their immediate neighbor and functioning together as a town or village is older than government systems. People may still want to participate in programs that help their home and the people in it. This can be hugely beneficial when working as a social worker in rural communities so as to avoid feeling entirely overwhelmed and alone.
Those Already Working in Rural Areas Need Refreshed
For social workers, working in rural areas can be isolating and exhausting. There’s frequently less to engage with in order to relax or blow off steam, and the distance between new cities or towns can make the whole world feel far away. This, in addition to a low desire to even want to work in rural areas in the first place, can contribute to social worker burnout.
Going to a new city can be exciting and stimulating — it feels like an adventure. However, working in a small town day in and day out can feel monotonous or frustrating. Because there are so few new social workers wanting to work in small towns that will come and refresh existing efforts, social workers already operating in rural communities may experience “brain drain.”
Part of “brain drain” is that a rural social worker doesn’t get to choose a speciality. There aren’t enough social workers to go around, so you can’t really say “I work with kids” or “I work with families.” You have to work with everyone, and that can take its toll.
Social Work Changes Lives
It’s important to remember that regardless of location, social work should be focused on the people you’re trying to help and not the allure of a place. With the global population rapidly increasing — it’s jumped up by nearly 5 billion people in the last 100 years— the need for social services is skyrocketing. It’s predicted that new job creation for social workers will increase by 20 percent in the next five years.
This means that by obtaining a degree in social work, or training to work in this field, you’re entering a career path that is sustainable. Of course, it can take emotional and mental tolls, so it will be important for your future to invest in regular mental health services like therapy or counseling. You should also be sure to create a healthy support system.
By seizing the opportunities in this field, you can not only secure your own future, but help people to create new chances for themselves. The more people are on this earth, the more we must be responsible for one another. Sometimes that means contributing to social assistance programs, and sometimes that means being the person implementing those programs.