Characteristics Of A Community Worker
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Keywords: communication skills social work, listening skills social work
Human beings have been engaged with a series of occupations from hunting to what we are today. As societies and communities began to exist, several actions were done simply to tackle a common problem or to spread awareness resulting to what we call today as 'voluntary' work. Voluntary work when it relates to the needs of a community, it is referred to as 'voluntary community work'. The professional and voluntary community workers are both motivated by the incessant need to contribute positively to the community.
Both types of community work include doing some sort of work that benefits the community. This could be anything from taking care of people in old people's homes, to working for the children and their families.
Community service comes in many different forms, such as belonging to a service organization, making donations to the needy, spending your time contributing towards the betterment of the society. Some community workers may be called upon to perform admirable actions like saving people's lives, however there are smaller ways that an individual can help his community. (Standard Journal)
Professional community service relates to everything that is done for the community for money and for acquiring skills and experience. Professional and voluntary work, are different ways of doing community service. The voluntary service is based on self motivation and the urge to improve the community without any selfish reasons while the major motivator of a professional community worker is his salary. Today the two ways are being combined. Most individuals and companies nowadays actively tackle social issues while taking advantage of personal profit and recognition within the industry.
Community service is about helping others either directly or indirectly in order to improve the condition of the community in which we are living. Community service is different from other institutions as it deals with local problems rather than global problems at large. Community service is based on the idea that it is a good thing someone is doing without expecting anything in return. The real beauty of serving your community is that you get to help others, and in the end, it helps you too to have a better community with happy people and a safer environment. There are many reasons people do community service and there are many different ways in which to contribute, but the main idea is to make the world a better place to live. (communityserviceopportunities.php)
There are various reasons why people engage in community service, some are voluntary and some are non voluntary. Some people like to do community service because they feel that it is the best way to improve their community. There is always somebody for whom your help and time can be necessary; this is good reason to work at giving back to the community. Many persons view community service as an important aspect of citizenship or values, while others do it because of their religion. Yet there are people who engage in community service in order to fulfill requirements for certain company, as a need to graduate from an institutions, or even as a mandatory legal punishment given by judges instead of or in addition to jail time or fines. The concept behind this is that the law can find a way to punish criminals or offenders at the advantage of the community and giving law breakers a reminder about what it means to be a good citizen. (communityserviceopportunities.php)
Irrespective of the reasons to be a community worker, it is essential to remember that community service itself takes on many forms from cleaning the road monthly to helping children in poverty. There are many ways to make the community a nice place to live. Prevalent forms of community service are beautification efforts such as picking up garbage or ameliorating landscaping work, while many others are focused on education or welfare of children where community workers can improve writing skills of children of making a safe place for them when their parents are away from home.
Characteristics of a community worker
The community worker must be trained and knowledgeable but this is not all. The persons who need to investigate and assist communities must know and understand themselves. Before one can evaluate what is happening with others, community workers must be "centered" and "above reproach" in their own life. The worker must be aware of the code of ethics associated with the job he is doing. Their ability and commitment to act ethically is an essential aspect of the quality of the service offered to those who use community services. (National Code of Ethics, 2012)
A community worker needs to be able to put aside his biases and deal with others in a logical and professional. If someone is honest with himself, if he knows his lacking, see his capacities, and is aware or his personal beliefs, he will be more likely capable of putting them on one side to tackle others justly and no prejudices. It is difficult to discuss with a family member who raped his biological daughter of 13 years old like in Mauritius in 2011. (Le Defi, 2011) But, if you are a community worker, you need to have good relationships with that abuser in order to develop trust and ease healing. A community worker must remain neutral and collect facts.
A community worker needs to have active listening skills, not to formulate an answer, but hear what is being said. From this data, the worker needs to make quick decisions in difficult situations. Not listening actively may cause unnecessary pain to people who are involved. Each family feels that they are the only one to have come across a tragic experience; however there are many things in common that exist in most of the cases. (Fairbairn, G.J. 2002)
The community worker needs to learn how to remove stress. Stress is one of the main causes of heart attacks. The worker needs to know how to remove stress from his life for instance by doing meditation or physical exercises. Dealing with other people's issues is difficult if you have feelings. The quote is, "God does not give anyone more than they can handle", but community workers handle problems that cannot be discussed with other people apart if the case is really complicated like the person wants to harm himself or someone else.
To become a successful community worker, one needs to developl maturity as well as experience. One of the most important skills for a community worker is to be able to empathize. Community workers must go beyond sympathy. To succeed as a community worker, one must feel true empathy for people and be able to place yourself in another person's position. (Fairbairn, G.J. 2002)
Voluntary community workers
Voluntary community workers work on a salary free basis. They perform actions that benefit the community. They don't get money for the work they do. Furthermore, they are not required to be qualified to perform voluntary community work; they just need to be motivated to do good for the community. Voluntary community work is a group of people or a person who is wants to work for the welfare of the community without being paid. They are helping out other needy neighbors without taking any money for it. These workers should not ask money for their contribution. They should work sincerely with dedication. Being voluntary workers, they should not think that they do not need to put all their effort in what they are doing as they will not get any revenue.
Professional community worker
Professional community workers are required to be trained and qualified for the work they do, such as a doctor or a manager. Professional community workers get a salary like any other employees. Professional community work is most often done by organizations for money. They get money for whatever they are doing. These workers should perform their work loyally but also expect to get paid for it. They work for the community while being paid and have all the requirements necessary to be able to work towards the betterment of the (community. (Community Dev J.1980)
Service delivery can be defined as the relationship between the community worker and the inhabitants of the community, and those who benefit from the services, it comprises of both the services and the support provided.
Community based approaches
Community based approaches is defined as a group of approaches, put into practice in community-level programs or as part of local programs. Amount of involvement differ along set of factors from consultation with inhabitants to use of resources, decision making and implementation of the program in the community. Participatory approaches have existed since many years but the amplitude of beneficiary control in development projects differs considerably. (Cliffe et al., 2003)
Community-based approaches are becoming very common and are used in many situations in the presence or absence of a capable government. Community-based approaches can be adopted in places where regular help is not available. Advocates of community-based approaches state that their built in adjustability makes it easy to interfere in places where the government is fragile, however those against say that in practice they often miss to be established, or attenuate. (Cliffe et al., 2003)
Objectives of community-based approaches
Just like service delivery, a set of objectives are associated with community based approaches.
Four types of objectives will be discusses further: empowerment, building organizational capacity, improving efficiency, effectiveness and sustainability and strengthening local government.
Empowerment of people and communities
Community-based projects have the capacity to be more encompassing, to empower communities, and enhance relationships between civil society and the state (Narayan, 1998; Alkire et al, 2004). Some have doubts on whether complicated things such as empowerment can be tackled through participation in community development projects (Mosse, 2001). Sometimes it is viewed as a way to ameliorate problems while in other situations it is seen as a factor having a built in value and is a limitation in itself.
Improve efficiency, effectiveness and sustainability of interventions
There is large consensus that community-based interventions have the capacity to be more acknowledging to the necessities and aims of inhabitants. Furthermore, there are proof that community-based projects are more productive due to lower degree of bureaucracy and excelling information of local costs (McLeod, 2003) .The projects that include mostly resources available locally tend to be more sustainable. (Ribot, 1995).
Build organizational capacity at local level
Mobilization of communities determines difficulties, plan and manage projects help to empower community ability for group process. Significant questions encompass the term 'community' and the ways in which the necessities of sub-groups and people are depicted, for instance black or poor people. Community-based approaches try to establish 'social capital' but while this is a beneficial idea it is most of the time put into practice uncritically with improper understanding of cultural and political condition and vested concern in the status quo (Harris, 2001).
Strengthen local governance
Community-driven progress is more and more being advanced as a way of strengthening state-community synergies (Das Gupta et al., 2004). These approaches capacitate communities to order services and provide a means for rebuilding trust and accountability and re-building the social contract between communities and the state. The aims of making more powerful local government and distributing improved services are often confused. Strength to meet short term goods targets often divert the mind from organizational changes required to make service delivery systems sustainable in the long run.
Service delivery of a voluntary community worker
People have sometimes worked with the idea of wanting to find some way to give back to their community, and help those who cannot help themselves. Some can volunteer and simply talk to people so that they have a good day and making them happy. Others may to hospitals and help the old people, having conversations and listening to them, thus acquiring maturity. These individuals are most of the time more than grateful to have a talk with someone and being listened to. Similarly, volunteers are also able to help children by doing activities like drawing with them. Volunteers are satisfied with the happiness of the people whom the help. (Helping others is good for you, 1998)
By volunteering and doing community service, many people get a maturity that they cannot get anywhere else. Volunteers are given the chance to see life from different perspectives, and gain a lot of humility at the end. . (Helping others is good for you, 1998)
When volunteering, these people are able to give as much of their time as they want, the commitment becomes theirs. They have no problem in getting involved with the work as it is being done out of their freewill. By doing community work voluntarily, an individual not only makes a difference in his life but also in all the lives of people who will benefit from his service. (Billig S.H. 2002)
Those who engage in voluntary community service are motivated by a personal force, they are happy if they are able to make a difference in somebody's life and do not expect anything in return. Volunteers are altruist by nature that is they like to help people without any interest; they have compassion for those who need help.
When doing community service voluntarily, the volunteer will not care about timing if he really wants to help the other person; he will not have to respect the organization's working hours to help someone. When working for an organization, the workers will have to abide by the rules and regulations assigned, if they want to help someone they will have to do so only during working hours. (Billig S.H. 2002)
Service delivery of a paid community worker
To be able to work for an organization and being remunerated, the community worker must be trained, that is he will possess the skills, experience and will understand the importance of the codes of ethics. Thus he will be in a better position to take rapid and effective decisions for the welfare or the community. To get the job, the individual have the necessary qualifications and fulfill the organization's requirements to be considered worthy thus he will b at a good position to take wise and good decisions. (Learning In Deed, 2005)
Being a professional worker, the person will have all the resources necessary to be able to help the needy; he will furthermore be able to use all the resources effectively without giving too much or too little. Also the worker will have a good database, the contact details of all the persons who can be of any help. The company will provide back up to the worker in case of accident, he will be covered by insurance unlike voluntary community workers. (Learning In Deed, 2005)
Working in an organization only as a means to get a salary can also be problematic as the community worker's main objective will not be to help people in the community but rather to earn money. The worker will not have the same motivation to do something good for others as he will anyway get his salary at the end of the month.
When working with the elderly and children, the community worker might not feel happy and might also not make an effort to put a smile on other people's face. His prime objective will not be to make others happy, the worker will not be satisfied by seeing the neighborhood happy unlike with voluntary community worker.
The community worker does his work only as a means to get a salary will have no interest to help people or to work for the betterment of the community. If he encounters a case outside his working hours he will not try to help the people needing help as he will not consider it as part of his work. As soon as his working hours are over he will find it of no use to work for this community. (Learning In Deed, 2005)
It is true that while engaging in community service out of free will the individual will feel happy to be able to contribute for the welfare of the community, however the voluntary community worker will face time constraints, he may be doing the work voluntarily as he is not able to do it on a full time basis as he has already some other engagements. Furthermore voluntary community workers will not have enough resources to help those who need help, for instance building a place for children to spend their leisure time when parents are absent require a lot of resources which unpaid workers might not possess. They will also lack the skills that are needed in difficult situations like dealing with delinquent children; they may take the wrong decisions unconsciously and are guided by their emotions instead of being logical. On the other hand, paid community workers may possess the required qualifications, skills, experience, resources and database but if their only motivation is their salary, they will not make any effort to solve the problems of the people in the community.
Hence, as we can see both voluntary and paid community works have their advantages and disadvantages. The best thing that can be done is to merge the two so as to be able to really benefit the community. By merging the two types, the worker will have the resources to help improve the locality, he will be able to take the right decisions with all the skills, qualifications and by respecting the codes of ethics, have time to handle the cases, and he will have a sense of worthiness helping the neighborhood moreover in return he will get a salary to be able to cater for his expenses. The community worker should not however work only as a way to get a salary. The government can empower both professional and voluntary social workers in terms of resources, access to information and technology and provide training, so that they can do their work more efficiently. By merging voluntary and professional community work, not only will the community benefit but the worker will also gain maturity.
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