This week Golda and I accompanied Mr. Paramasivam, a new SST CDO, on a trip to Chennai with two purposes: to update Chairman Joshi on our work in Padavedu and to attend the wedding of an SST employee’s sister.
Chairman Joshi encouraged me to think in a multidisciplinary way about how we can contribute ideas about improving upon community development in Padavedu based on the social work theories we have learned at CUSSW. I left his office reflecting on how social workers around the world intrinsically have similar objectives; although our theories may differ, we each investigate how to create better systems to help individuals, families, and communities. We seek solutions to problems, weighing out the possible risks and protective factors, discussing the complexities and accepting that change takes maintenance, flexibility, and commitment over time.
The same evening we attended an Indian wedding of one of the SST worker’s sister. From the moment Mr. Baskar introduced the idea of going to this wedding, we were both on board, eager to experience a traditional Indian wedding. What I had not considered was that attending the wedding would be a time for our self-care.
Self-care is something that social workers are reminded to integrate into our daily routines throughout our education and working life. What seems so obvious in theory is not as easy to implement into practice. In the U.S, I consider making time for at least one long dinner with friends and/or family once a week an example of self-care to create a balance between personal and professional time. As I work with Golda on a case study about health-seeking behaviors (HSB) in the Padavedu community, I have become more aware of my own tendencies to attend to my health both physically and mentally.
In the SST office, self-care crosses my mind regularly, as I wonder if the staff is conscious about the need for self-care. They work six-days a week, contribute long and dedicated hours, and live within the communities they serve, which means that they are constantly on call. I wonder how they navigate these situations every day, providing their assistance and care, with little time for themselves. I have learned that the time they take to share meals and go to temple serves as their self-care in many ways. Staff and friends laugh over lunch served on a banana leaves, eating and talking with their hands, even if work is still the main topic of conversation. As I observe the office and wonder about how they work so long and so hard, I realize it is the joint dedication to the work, the teamwork, and the connection to the villagers when in the field that keeps them balanced.
We arrived to the wedding with hundreds of guests and were quickly whisked away by new friends to help us assemble our sari’s (spelled “saree” in Tamil) and add flowers to our hair and bangles to match the colors of our saris. I felt nurtured by the people around me: ladies brushed my hair into a tight braid down my back and adjusted the fabric of my new sari. Being surrounded by women taking care of us became part of my self-care
Attending the wedding was refreshing as I realized that self-care is both about doing something for yourself and about being in the company of people who mean something to you; People whose laughter and joy is contagious. This reminds me of the same feelings I have when I make time for self-maintenance by surrounding myself with friends and family as my own personal retreat. This wedding was the perfect get-away to recharge for the last two weeks working in Padavedu. On our drive home we sat in the back seat of a car packed with women from the SST office and my mind was clear; I was ready to get back to work the next day.