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Abdirahman Sheikh

Abdirahman sheikh1Name: Abdirahman Sheikh
Year of arrival in New Zealand: 2003

High School: Rongotai College

Programme of study/qualification gained: Bachelor of Social Work
Name of tertiary education institution:
Massey University Palmerston North
Place of employment: AMES Settlement

My career choices
Reflecting on my educational and career choices, biology was my favourite subject in school and I always imagined myself doing something related to biology. Despite this effort to move in a different direction, I found myself drawn to the values of social work. I figured out that if I have to work for the next 40 years it might as well be doing something that helps people. I wanted a job that was different every day and that I felt was worthwhile and satisfying.
I started the four-year Bachelor of Social Work degree straight from high school. A year after I started my course, Massey University’s social work programme was moved to Palmerston North where the main campus is. I opted to stay in Wellington while doing the course extramurally on a part-time basis. I was cognisant of the fact that getting some work experience under my belt was vital while continuing my part-time study. I was lucky to get a social work trainee position with Wellington Somali Council and also a casual role with Wellington City Council as a youth worker. Both these roles gave me the opportunity to look inside myself, examine my abilities and my suitability as a social worker.
After embracing the field, I graduated with my social work degree (Hons.) in 2012. Studying social work was a journey that developed my professional knowledge and skills, as well as my personal identity and understanding of how I exist and interact in the world. The two placements I completed confirmed to me that this degree was worth studying. During the fourth year of my degree, I was able to complete my final placement with the Department of Corrections. In this role some of my tasks included conducting pre-sentencing assessment interviews, inducting offenders into sentences to ensure that they understood their responsibilities, rights and the consequences of non-compliance and providing focused casework to assess and reduce offenders’ likelihood of reoffending and risk of harming others. The client group was very challenging, encompassing both care and control aspects of practice. It was very rewarding and exciting and a great placement that prepared me for my next task as a practicing practitioner.

I am now employed at Ames Settlement in Melbourne as a Case Manager for asylum seekers and refugees. My role as a Case Manager encompasses providing case coordination, referrals and support and linking them with all essential community services. The role provides me with a wonderful opportunity to gain experience and insight into working with individuals, families and communities of different cultures, religions and backgrounds. My role as a Case Manager is challenging and I constantly reflect on my personal, cultural and social work values, past and present policies, history, and language while trying to maintain culturally appropriate and reflexive practice.

Future plans

In the future I plan on returning to university to undertake a master’s degree in social work. Mental health is an area I am interested in looking into. In Somali culture mental health is stigmatised, and concepts of mental health only include perspectives on mental illness: one is crazy or one is not crazy. There is no conceptual framework that includes a spectrum of health and disease, mental health and mental illness. Therefore, as a practitioner my vision is to increase my understanding of mental health and mental diagnosis in order to challenge cultural factors that contribute to this stigmatisation. This stigmatisation shrouding mental health prevents a lot of people from seeking treatment. Understanding mental health will not only help me to develop skills to work within my culture but it will also give me skills that I can use with different people in a range of social work areas.

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