Social work is varied and demanding

We bring you an interview with Juraj Hausleitner – the professional guarantor of social work at Doma at the Capuchins (DOMA). As a volunteer, he worked at DOMA almost from the start of the project and from the beginning he devoted himself to the social work area. In 2015 we expanded our activities with basic social counseling for clients and Juraj was the first volunteer-social worker. Gradually other volunteers in this field joined him and in 2017 we employed Juraj full-time as the professional guarantor. He deals with families and individuals, mothers, seniors, the sick and otherwise disadvantaged people. At the same time he coordinates other volunteer-social workers.

Juraj, what led you to social work? Did you do it also before you worked at DOMA?

I've never been a model child. Even at that time, I was terribly confused by injustice and inequality before the Velvet Revolution. I graduated only so that I could continue my studies and then, after a few professional turns (into the economic sphere), I got into social work.

The institute of social work seemed interesting to me, after all, I continued to study in this direction. The study included, among other things, social work, very complex social policy, missionary and charitable work, psychology, social law, addictions and many other areas. For me, social work is a synonym to openness, free thinking, a holistic approach, conscious and planned change. I think our work is extremely varied and diverse.

What exactly is social work, what should we imagine under this expression? Could you tell us a little about your work and activities?

We provide support to those who currently need it and who are unable to solve their bad life situation on their own. Social work is a harmonious unity of abilities and skills that encourages us to use them consciously, to enable and help others to know and understand their own situation and mobilize internal human resources, and together we seek a way out of the difficult situations that the state in its legislation sometimes does not solve at all.

Who is suitable for this job?

Those who have empathy and they must be creative. It is important to be solid and patient, but at the same time to be able to stand by those who receive services, because this profession is also about promoting the interests of children, the elderly, people with various addictions or even the homeless. You cannot represent someone without a routine in resolving conflicts, defending interests and so on. It is a planned, organized, professional, auxiliary activity. Unfortunately, time for an individual person is sometimes very limited due to the number of clients as well as administrative tasks. Neither as a social worker nor as a person you can tell somebody who has a problem that I am sorry, now I can't help, come in two weeks, try to manage it somehow until then, to survive. The range of socially dependent clients is so wide that one social worker is not able to master all the procedures and solutions that are appropriate and prescribed in the relevant standards.

Is this job demanding?

As social workers, we are at increased risk of burnout because we face the shadowy side of life every day. This profession is psychologically demanding. Overall, this can be stressful for social workers, as every day they face poverty, falls, despair and the pressure that comes from looking for a way out or at least a glimmer of hope for an individual or a family. It is important that we accept that we are not "problem solvers" but "accompanying persons", and everyone must take control of their own lives, even if it currently requires help.

What are your successes with clients, what have you managed to change for the better in their lives?

In this profession, the measure of success is very different and the social work itself is sometimes invisible to the outside person. We often encounter unrealistic expectations from outside, for example, that a deviant child suddenly becomes a hardworking student, or an alcoholic as a head of a family will be a model father the next day. I think success means avoiding irreversible dangers; success is, for example, when a mother is able to raise her children, if these people are able to fit in, to integrate into their immediate environment and also into wider society. Mostly these are really small invisible things that are difficult to communicate with the outside world.

It is also a success for me when someone recognizes me on the street after years, we exchange few words and I can see that he is doing well, that he does not need to go from door to door and ask for help. Society should not think unrealistically, but perceive real successes. In real human life it is not possible to achieve the radical results for the poor, the Roma, etc., which are expected of them by the middle class or decision-making power. Where they struggle with huge problems every day, it is not a question of whether children have clean nails, but such things are often expected of them. The role of social workers is to help others do their utmost to prevent people from getting into an even deeper crisis and to do their utmost to get out of this pit.

Social work is not about helping the poor in need with teary eyes. And it also goes far beyond creating a loving environment for these groups at DOMA.

These are difficult topics... But to end a little happier - do you have any funny story from your work?

Once a client's skirt tore. She asked for a needle and a thread from me. Since I don't have anything like that in the office, I offered her a stapler. She quite skilfully repaired her skirt with it and I believe she came home safely.

Thank you, Juraj, for your sincere words and we wish you a lot of strength and wisdom in your further work!

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