From teaching to social work

Abigale Joungaye tells her story

By Lakhram Bhagirat

Teachers are the creators of every other profession and they more than often become our second set of parents. They have our best interests at heart and take pride in our developments. They go above and beyond to ensure that we are given the best possible education we can get so that we can grow and be the best version of ourselves.
It is a known fact that teachers are overworked and underpaid and suffer from severe mental exhaustion from dealing with children from diverse backgrounds. The personalities sometimes clash but a teacher never gives up. No teacher would tell you that they are in the profession for the money, rather they would tell you that they do it for the satisfaction and impact that their work has.
Just like teachers, social workers are important because they make a difference in society, their profession makes an impact on people’s lives. Some individuals often devalue the contribution of these dedicated and hardworking social workers because they lack knowledge of the assistance and impact social work has on persons. Social work is not as easy as it may seem because it is literally a life-changing occupation.
For Abigale Joungaye, she has had the distinct opportunity to be in both professions but found her calling when she became a School Welfare Officer. To understand the impact that she has made, you must first get to know Abigale’s story. It is a story that is quite unique in the sense that both professions are near and dear to her and she uses her training to help those who she crosses path with.
The mother of two is currently a Family Counsellor attached to USAID on a project in collaboration with the Ministry of Social Protection. She is working every day to make this country a better place for its citizens who needs help. She loves helping people and she has a job which makes her dream come true.
She grew up in Mabaruma, North West, with her very large family. That has shaped her into the person she eventually grew up to be. As a child, the memories are plentiful and range from stealing fruits with her siblings to having the most fun playing different games.
Abigale wrote the Common Entrance Examination in Mabaruma then her mother moved to Georgetown in search of better opportunities. After she moved to the city, Abigale attended Tutorial High School but as fate would have it, she moved back to Mabaruma where she completed her secondary education at North West Secondary School.
Immediately out of school, Abigale knew that she needed to begin a career and she had a passion for imparting knowledge so it was only fair that she join the teaching profession. She started teaching at the very school she completed her education at and at that time, her salary was one of the motivating factors to furthering her education.
Eager to upgrade her educational status, she then attended Cyril Potter College of Education where she trained professionally to become a teacher after which she went to Port Kaituma where she began teaching as a trained teacher. During her tenure as a teacher, one of her past teachers told her of the need for a School Welfare Officer in Port Kaituma and that she is the ideal candidate.
She was identified as the ideal candidate for the post because of her ability to make an impact and offer solid solutions to the social ills that plagued the mining community.
“The community is a mining one and most of the youths would say why go to school when I could go in the backdam and make so much of money. So the school drop out was very high and we needed to address that. Then when the opportunity as a School Welfare Officer came along, I took it and knew that I can make a difference,” she said.
From then she never looked back and continued to soar to dizzying heights. However, the road to where she is now is one that was in no way paved. Though she speaks very little of her challenges, Abigale said that they are part and parcel of the package that shaped her and helped expand her thinking so that she can create an impact through her work.
Her first venture in social work as a Welfare Officer inspired her decision to make it her profession and she attended and then graduated from the University of Guyana in 2012. She took a break after graduating and during that time she attended Law School but dropped out due to personal reasons.
She applied to work with the Ministry of Social Protection as a Child Protection Officer for two years. Abigale applied to work at USAID as a Family Counsellor, which is in collaboration with the Ministry of Social Protection. Abigale stated that being in the social work field has always been a part of her because she has always assisted persons in her family and students in school.
To avoid stress factors in her life, Abigale keeps it professional whereby she deals with work at her workplace and keeps her personal life on track. She has the innate ability to separate work from her personal life so that the stress of her job does not crawl into her personal life.
“Helping my client and seeing them able to move from that depressed state to a better state where they can be better to be able to function. That’s one of the greatest moment of any social worker I would say.
To get them at a stage where they are helpless and then you move them to another stage where they can eventually help themselves or be better at the situation that they were at,” Abigale said as she spoke about the fulfilment her job gives her.
Her major influence in social work is her family. Abigale is trying to break the stereotype that social work is for people who want an easy way out or a profession that does not involve much work.
She stated that social workers are important just like doctors or ministers because people seek their assistance and social workers help persons who attempt suicide or have family problems or if they need someone to talk to.
“If you are not ready for social work because you have to deal with issues and these are real core hard issues and if you can’t deal with it, don’t even think about joining social work because you will find yourself frustrated, you will find yourself burnt out, you will find yourself pulling your hair out of your head cause it’s not a movie, it is real life and these are real people story. If you can’t handle it you need another profession,” she advised.