Home Articles A Visiting Fireman in Africa A Visiting Fireman in Africa. Chapter 4 - Page Sixteen
A Visiting Fireman in Africa. Chapter 4 - Page Sixteen Print E-mail
Written by Ray Critchell   
Sunday, 05 July 2009 23:37
Article Index
A Visiting Fireman in Africa. Chapter 4
Page Two
Page Three
Page Four
Page Five
Page Six
Page Seven
Page Eight
Page Nine
Page Ten
Page Eleven
Page Twelve
Page Thirteen
Page Fourteen
Page Fifteen
Page Sixteen
Page Seventeen
Page Eighteen
Page Nineteen
Page Twenty
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And so I began the professional training course at Bromley College, close to London. I had just turned 50 and was probably the oldest student on the campus. I know I was older than many of the Tutors there. I was given a student union card and a booklet for students giving useful advice such as where the best pubs were locally, where to get free condoms and advice should I fall pregnant or catch a disease. There was also a learned discussion on the various merits of the wide range of marijuana and what to do if stopped by the fuzz or got arrested. I also qualified for a student rail pass that entitled me to buy my railway tickets at half price, which caused occasional eyebrow raising in the ticket office in my local railway station.

A pleasant, but intensive two years followed in the company of some truly nice people. All of them were well established in their own field of social work and most had been so for years and years. Although I was the eldest, I was probably the most junior in the sense of being the most recent entrant into social work. There was an interesting moment, at the beginning of the course, when the group were all required to give their reasons for becoming a social worker. There were some revealing and some quite moving reasons forthcoming, until they reached me, and I had to answer that mine was because I was out of work and the Social Services Department was the only place that would give me a job.

The training was quite deep as well as thought provoking. Every one else seemed to be well in advance of me in their knowledge and ability and I started off quite in awe of my fellow students. Fortunately, a little voice from the past gave me a boost. I can't recall where this one came from but it does sound like the sort of thing my late mother would drop on my childish head from a great height - “No one can make you feel inferior except with your consent”.

Came the final exams and the day we were presented with our certificates, and turned loose upon the world. I shall be forever grateful to Kent county Council for offering me a job when I really did need one. Also for the opportunity they gave me at my age to obtain a professional qualification, [with a commensurate salary], and at the end of it all, a pension.

Other ,shorter, courses followed at the University of Kent at Canterbury, fortunately just up the road from where I live. These covered general counselling, bereavement counselling, marriage guidance counselling, family therapy and conflict resolution, all necessary bits to help sort out families in trouble..

By now, the Children's Home where I worked had closed and the children dispersed all over the county. And so, from a middle aged junior non resident residential child care officer, I metamorphosed in to a fully fledged Social Worker. I became a member of the Social Work team in Canterbury. Although under the new scheme of things we were all supposed to be generic in the sense that any one of us could take on the work of anyone else in the team, it seemed that, as in most other places, things followed the lay of the land, and people just naturally seemed to take on the role for which they were best suited, either by inclination or training.

Everyone seemed to have a preference or a good reason to follow their speciality, whether it was working with the elderly and infirm, physically or mentally handicapped or mentally ill, or children and families. Because of my own background, and interests, I became a social worker for children and families in the coastal towns