N I N O S H A T B E R I S H V I L I
I was at the vanguard of social work development in my country, Georgia. There were no social workers up until 1999, but support and empowerment of each other is a deep rooted Georgian tradition and I believe that social work in its best version combines professional and lay support. The more aware social workers are of the former, the more effectively they perform as the latter.
I started as a grassroots social worker, receiving my social work education in the US; my path has taken me from grassroots to strategy level. I see my profession as something that is very old but always apt for renewal; the potential of the profession seems broader and broader to me, not yet used to its full potential in Georgia. In my belief, social work is about not living isolated and not letting others be in despair.
I remember the words of a colleague who said “I am so happy, I am doing kind things and receiving salary for this – what can be greater happiness”. She said this when we were just starting and when we knew not much about social work, but her pathos is still maintained in Georgian social work.
A Khurjini is something like a saddleback. It is an ornamented, woven, colorful and two-sided kind of travelling bag, originally made of carpet-like material, which Georgian Santas (Father Christmases) that we call “snow grandpa” carry traditionally, travelers also carry them. In Santa’s case, it was full of all different things: sweets, traditional candies, warm clothes which he distributed when he visited families. In a traveler’s case, there might appear anything needed. In mountains a postman also used it to carry newspapers and parcels. It can be put on horse back or over a shoulder.
I chose Khurjini because …
… it is associated with something new, sweet, and unexpected. For me it represents social work. Somehow it is linked with hope and love, that someone cares about you and your worries, desires and dreams. You can also put something in it and send to someone else. It allows participating relationships.
You can find many things in it, you just need to pick up what is needed in a particular situation. Similarly, just as the practitioner needs confidence in selecting a particular intervention in a specific situation with an individual service user, it has the potential to position the user either for more effective social functioning or further exclusion.
As at the edge of a New Year, Khurjini brings new hopes and chances for all. The diversity of people whose appearance or traditions may suggest a different culture or approaches, so suggests social work, at least in my ideal of the profession. In my imagination, when a person with Khurjini, be it Santa, traveler or a postman, meets with people in the community, they notice everyone’s needs, not forgetting about anyone, because neglect fuels isolation. In this community isolation does not exist, here reigns collective responses to exposed needs. It is associated with a bringing together.
The additional reason for my association is the Khurjini’s endless function and chance for reordering, when you can be a carrier of hopes and undisclosed desires, support and empowerment. You can carry with comfort, with joy, you can retrieve from the bag whatever is needed and not always whatever you planned. You can also decorate it as you wish to make it yours. And sometimes it might feel heavy or empty.
For me social work is about not being alone, not leaving alone, changing, empowering, refreshing …