Current employer: Maranatha Care Children
Current job title: Charity Director and Programme Manager
Current location: Port Elizabeth, South Africa
Harrison's award-winning social work in South Africa
“Plymouth University set a high standard from the range of learning opportunities, the facilities, and support available both face to face and through the online portal and email.”Tell us about your career path since graduation.
Whilst studying my degree I founded the Maranatha Care Children charity in 2009. This assisted fundraising projects in South Africa where I had been involved voluntarily since 2007. After qualifying in social work I saw how I could put my qualification to use and be an asset if I was be based in South Africa full time. I have now been living there since the start of 2012.
Has your career path changed since graduation?
The organisation I am based at in South Africa is called Maranatha Streetworkers Trust, to whom my charity is affiliated. Their primary project is a residential child and youth care centre. As well as providing social work services I also took up workshop and training opportunities to equip myself in play therapy and other counselling techniques. Whilst I initially provided services voluntarily, an opportunity arose to obtain a work visa for the role of Programme Manager at this organisation. This role carries a great deal of responsibility and is one where I have had to put all my work experiences to use.
What is the most difficult thing which you have faced in your career?
As a newly qualified social worker leaving university with statutory placement experience at Plymouth City Council behind me, I knew that I had many opportunities locally but still felt my passion would be to make a difference in an international context. Throwing caution to the wind, selling my car, and relocating in the first instance, was obviously a challenging decision and transition.
What is the best, most exciting or fun thing that you have done in your career?
Since being in South Africa I have been able to share in many amazing experiences with the young people I work with on a daily basis. My most valuable achievements are seeing the development of such children who came from the worst circumstances imaginable to actually become successful independent adults in their own right. This year I have been truly overwhelmed to have been awarded a British Citizen Award for my work, but admit that undoubtedly it is these young people who are the real heroes.
How did studying at Plymouth help you?
Whilst my passion has remained to work directly with children and young people, my studies at Plymouth equipped me both theoretically and practically through varied lectures and a range of placement opportunities. The transferable skills gained through such learning experiences have been a huge asset to my professional development.
Do you stay in touch with other Plymouth University alumni or lecturers?
In terms of the lecturers, I have certainly maintained contact with the social work department since leaving. One of my third year essays ended up being published as a chapter in a book as a literature review, and I had to thank them as it was reflective of the quality of lectures and support I received. There are also alumni who remain such close friends of mine. I even had one come and volunteer with me in South Africa.
Would you recommend undertaking a course with Plymouth University, and why?
As someone who is born and bred in Plymouth, I just love the city and feel it has a lot to offer anyone making the decision to come here. Plymouth University set a high standard from the range of learning opportunities, the facilities, and support available both face to face and through the online portal and email. I also feel it is the perfect place for aspiring social workers.
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