We spoke this month with Stella Wong, Vice President of Programs who oversees the agency’s 30+ service programs, the building of community partnerships and creation of innovative approaches to further Catholic Charities Hawai’i’s mission of outreach and service.
How long have you been a social worker?
I graduated with a Masters in Social Work (MSW) in 1976, however, I’ve been a licensed social worker since 2004, the first year Hawai’i required social workers to be licensed. I am also an ACSW, which means I belong to the Academy of Certified Social Workers of the National Association of Social Workers.
Why did you become a social worker?
While teaching at the University of Hawai’i in the Department of Human Development, I was also the department’s academic advisor. During that time students came to see me not only for academic advising, but also for personal counseling. It was then that I decided to go on for my master’s degree in social work.
Why is social work essential in our community?
The professional social worker comes with training and skills that are needed in various fields. There are those who specialize in certain types of counseling such as work with domestic violence, child abuse, addiction, elder abuse and case management to name a few. However, my training was in community organizing and administration. My courses helped me develop more the advocacy and community building skills. The area of social work that serves as a change agent is not as visible as the therapeutic areas. This is the social worker who is maybe working behind the scenes to advocate for the people who have no one to speak for them. They are vital to the community too.
What is the most rewarding thing about social work?
I have found many different parts of my career in social work rewarding. I think every social worker will say that moving a client from where they are hurting to a place of understanding and helping themselves is rewarding if you are doing therapeutic work. To be able to work with a community to accomplish some change is also highly rewarding.
What do you wish everyone knew about social work?
It is more than what the TV portrayal of social workers might be – taking children away from their parents. It’s about helping families stay together. It’s about preventing abuse. It’s about helping seniors continue to live safely in the community and helping their caregivers. Being a social worker is being an important change agent.
We are so grateful for all of our social workers and supportive staff as agents of change in the many lives that we touch. To learn more about the different programs in which our social workers assist, click here.