In a thoroughly diverse institution such as the University of Pretoria, there are a million and one interesting people with so much to say. Drawing inspiration from the famed photoblog “Humans of New York”, “Humans of UP” aims to introduce characters from the streets of Hatfield to you in all their uniqueness. In this edition, PDBY interviewed MSW student Cara Janse van Noordwyk about her studies. 

What are you studying and why?

I am currently busy with my Master’s in Social Work. I kind of fell into that because there was no space in Psychology. But then I realised that it is what I want to do, and I have a deep passion for social justice. It was a good way to be an activist and make money at the same time.

Can you explain what social work entails?

Social work is multifaceted. People think it’s just taking babies from people and helping people adopt babies and removing babies[…]. But, it’s actually so diverse and there are many different specialities. We facilitate any kind of assistance for individuals, families and communities. […] We basically work on social development, improving quality of life as best we can and empowering everybody.

How has your perspective changed since you started working in that field?

My cultural competency has improved a lot, which I am very grateful for. I have learnt that you can’t just apply what you’ve learnt at university; you have to apply what people teach you.[…] You have to listen to individuals and let them guide you in how they need assistance and how they need you to facilitate that for them.

Would you say your cultural competence is the biggest skill you have learnt?

Yes, and I know how to write a report! I think my people skills and being able to hear and listen and think solution-based [are] my biggest skill[s]. That’s something that I can apply to other parts of my life. 

What is one of your biggest dreams in life?

I want to direct the UN or, at least, change policies at a big scale. I want to cast my net super wide and help as many people as I can with policy making. 

What is your favourite quote?

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” – Nelson Mandela

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

Either busy with my doctorate degree or [having] completed it.

Thus, social workers are involved in many different areas of social development outside of adoption and child protection. As a UP postgraduate in this field, Cara is an ambitious individual who wishes to harness the power of knowledge to shape the world on a social level.

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