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Monday, 12 September 2016

Inspiring mature student overcomes obstacles with a degree in Social Work

Written by The Editorial Team

A mature University of Chester graduand has adapted to life as a student again and overcome difficult personal circumstances in the process.

Wendy Hind began her Social Work degree as a mature student in her late forties and is proud to be graduating this November.

Wendy, now 52, from Northwich, worked in social care for 25 years, first as a Support Worker, then as a Senior Community Support Worker. She eventually found there was little opportunity to progress further within her role and, after completing an Access course, she decided to further her education at university.

Wendy (pictured) said: “It has been a very long journey but I have enjoyed every minute. I did not feel like a mature student - I think that the University lecturers treat all students equally. The group I was in had a mixture of age ranges. I made some great friends and we have all supported each other throughout the good times and the bad.”

During her time at University, Wendy challenged herself by travelling to America to work at a learning disability camp in Minnesota for four months during the summer between her first and second year. After attending a presentation at the University, Wendy was accepted as a Lead Camp Counsellor at Camp Friendship.

Camp Friendship caters for people aged between seven and 85 with a range of disabilities. Having previously only worked with the elderly, the camp presented some new challenges for Wendy but she faced them with a positive attitude and strong work ethic. She said: “My communication skills were enhanced during my time there. Relationships were built quickly with campers, from the moment they arrived on a Sunday until the moment they left on a Friday night. Time was spent completing activities, providing personal care, dancing, swimming, singing, and most importantly getting to know each other.”

She added: “I was not a wife or mother during this time, I was Wendy. I could dance and sing camp songs, participate in the camp extravaganza, behave like a fool, dress up and laugh until I could not laugh anymore. No one was watching and no one was judging me. I made some lovely friends and some wonderful memories.”

Wendy embraced another opportunity offered to her at the University and became an ambassador at the International Social Work Conference, where she met other academics and professionals who shared their knowledge and expertise. Delegates from all over the world attended the three day event where Wendy assisted with welcoming them to the institution.

She said: “We got the chance to network at the Conference as well as learn about Social Work and the different roles we could apply for once we are qualified.” Wendy also represented the Department of Social Work and Interprofessional Education during an audit with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC). She was able to offer feedback about the course and respond to questions from HCPC representatives.

Wendy has had to overcome some difficult personal circumstances during her degree. Five months into her first year of study, her husband underwent surgery in order to donate a kidney to their very ill son. Despite this, Wendy persevered with her studies. She said: “It was a worrying time, but the University was great saying I could take time off. Several tutors emailed me to ask how they were doing. They really care, not just about me and my well-being, but also my family’s. It was really touching to think that they made the time to contact me even though they all had busy timetables.”

Wendy faced another setback after her mother became ill. She said: “I felt like I was never meant to complete the course, however the whole Social Work department encouraged me and made me believe that I would. I felt valued by everyone in the department, from the tutors to the administrators.”

Fortunately Wendy has now completed her final practice placement with excellent feedback from her practice educator and from work colleagues. Wendy said: “There were times during my degree that I thought I will never get through it. However the tutors were fantastic, their doors were always open for a chat.”

Anne Keeler, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Health and Social Care, said: “Wendy demonstrates all of the qualities and values that the social work profession requires: humility, compassion, dignity, commitment, respect, honesty and resilience. She has been a fantastic ambassador for the University during her time with us and is a credit to the University.”

Wendy is currently working as a Social Care Assessor for the Cheshire West and Chester Council Ellesmere Port Gateway Team in Adult Social Care, and she is looking forward to her future as a qualified Social Worker. She said: “My dream is now a reality and it is all thanks to the University. I believe that I am a stronger person now, full of confidence and ready to commence my Social Work career.”

Picture (c) University of Chester.

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