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A Social Work Student’s Experience with CEF

Hi friends! I’m Rachel, CEF’s MSW (Master’s in Social Work) intern. UNC MSW students are placed in the field at various local organizations to take the theories they are learning about in class and put them into practice. During our first year, the idea is that one part of our field placement experience is spent working with people on a more one-on-one basis.  The other part is to participate in more macro-level activities, such as learning about organization administration, policy, advocacy, and community development and organizing.
Long story short, CEF is a great field placement for a first-year MSW student. I get to work with, serve, learn from, and get to know Members in the office, at Opportunity Classes, and through other CEF activities. Learning about CEF’s beginning, growth, and future has been very interesting. Another thing I’ve gotten the opportunity to witness is how well CEF is integrated in the community and how much it serves the community. As an added bonus, I get to not only work with, but also learn a great deal from, CEF’s student and community-member volunteers.
Though CEF isn’t staffed by social workers, there are numerous intersections and overlaps between the work that CEF does and the social work profession. Social workers follow a professional code of ethics. A major part of this code is a section that describes the ethical principles social workers are to follow, which are based on the primary values of social work. These values and respective ethical principles are as follows:
1. Service – “Social workers’ primary goal is to help people in need and to address social problems.”
2. Social justice – “Social workers challenge social injustice.”
3. Dignity and worth of the person – “Social workers respect the inherent dignity and worth of the person.”
4. Importance of human relationships – “Social workers recognize the central importance of human relationships.”
5. Integrity – “Social workers behave in a trustworthy manner.”
6. Competence – “Social workers practice within their areas of competence and develop and enhance their professional expertise.”1
When I observe CEF volunteers, admin, and staff, do I sense that all of the above mentioned values are important to them and the work they do with Members? You bet your CEF Safe Savings I do.
When empowering others to solve problems and achieve goals, social workers also focus on individuals’ strengths and resilience.  The  individuals CEF works with—those who have experienced, are experiencing, or are at risk of experiencing homelessness—show great strength and a great deal of resilience. I know that many times, I have the privilege of hearing just part of Members’ stories. From just those parts, I can see how strong and resilient these individuals are.
So thank you, CEF volunteers, admin, staff, and Members, for teaching me about social work values and sharing with me your goals, aspirations, wisdom, fears, dreams, strengths, stories, ideas, hopes, and so much more.
1National Association of Social Workers. (2008). Code of ethics. Retrieved from http://www.socialworkers.org/pubs/code/code.asp

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