Social workers encourage social change in a society. They have the important task of being close to people in need, identifying their specific needs, and helping them improve their lives. These are professionals who work in a dynamic, emotionally demanding work environment. Many of us, as outsiders, assume that this is just like any other job. However, the workload that social workers take on often goes beyond human capabilities.
In Bulgaria, there are people who demonstrate extraordinary strength and tirelessly work every day, dedicated to changing the lives of the most vulnerable among us. These are people who work hard, despite the shortcomings of the country. We are delighted to introduce you to one such person.
Miglena Marinova is a former social worker and current team leader at the Center for Social Support. She is also a participant in the "Initiative for Building a Future Generation of Civic Leaders" project of the "Workshop for Civic Initiatives" Foundation, financed by the Active Citizens Fund of the EEA. In the interview below, Miglena shares the challenges of her profession, the difficult moments, and the reasons why she continues.
-Who is Miglena Marinova?
I am a mother, a wife, and a former social worker from Lovech. My greatest pride is my beautiful daughter. I have a degree in Public Administration Economics. I have experience as a social worker and social activities employee at the non-governmental organization "Association for Civic Initiatives" in Lovech, which provides a range of social services. Currently, after another promotion, I am a team leader at the Center for Social Support.
Is social work your calling?
In fact, my personality and social skills shone through with the announcement of the state of emergency in connection with COVID-19 in March 2020. At that time, I initiated various campaigns related to providing children's strollers, food, clothing, and essential footwear, purchasing medicines for elderly people who, given the situation, did not have the opportunity to wait for hours in lines. I had the full freedom to stay at home in a safe place, but I chose to be next to all my colleagues who had taken on the responsibility to help people and that they can count on us. When I accepted to become a supervisor at the Center for Social Support, I did not suspect what trials I would face.
What was the most difficult task for me was for my colleagues, with whom I held the same position, to recognize me as a person who would lead the team and direct them towards our common success. At the same time, I continued to be a social worker, as I have clients with whom I cannot easily part...
During the time when I am alone with myself, exhausted to the extreme, I find strength and tell myself: "I will admit to myself that even on difficult days, I did not give up, so I can persevere..."
Your work day begins:
...Certainly not in the standard way. You go to work and perform the routine tasks assigned to you. In our center, the dynamics are at a very high level and it is intensifying even more due to the development of the service.
We receive calls related to people in distress who need to be visited at their address. We discuss important cases where there are changes in circumstances. Unforeseen meetings that cannot be postponed and so on until the end of the working day. In addition to this, we have to document all the work done on paper, which further burdens our daily workload.
I'm glad that with the team, we find time for jokes, stories, and support among ourselves. I believe that this should be one of the principles of social work, time to ventilate the emotions caused by the work process, so that we can protect ourselves and those around us.
-What do you encounter during the day...?
All kinds of stories, emotions, fates, and very often desperate people seeking attention and support. The strongest impression left in my mind is from the victims of violence. We increasingly encounter mothers with children who are subjected to systematic harassment by their partners. This is the most difficult to experience, even as a specialist, because in our work, before all the positions we occupy, we are people, and it is impossible not to feel empathy.
Two women who had the courage to ask our specialists for help were an exceptional motivation for me. Having the courage to put an end to the violence against oneself requires a great deal of strength, which motivates you to take this step.
I want to express my gratitude to all colleagues who, with exceptional professionalism, confidentiality, and mobilization, manage to save these women and children, who see us as their salvation. The greatest success in social work is when the user expresses the desire to be helped, then the specialist is not only motivated but also does the impossible to achieve the ultimate goal.
Tell us a little more about your city, the people, the environment, and the civic position.
Lovech is one of the oldest populated places in Bulgaria. This city is extremely flourishing.
For me, Lovech has a great sentimental value, not only because I grew up here, but because there is something captivating about it. The people have big hearts. Here you can meet great creators and activists.
Regarding the civic position, the community in Lovech is becoming more and more sensitive to injustice. This is evident in various campaigns, initiatives, and other types of marches. During the COVID crisis, we received great support from citizens who donated without hesitation. Their solidarity was also evident during the Ukrainian crisis, when many citizens supported those in need according to their abilities.
What do you think Bulgaria is missing?
In Bulgaria, we need to talk about the development of civic activity and taking responsibility. This is an urgent and missing process that should start from the earliest stages of children's development. Skills need to be purposefully developed in school.
Parents should also be involved in this process, and understand that responsibility for their children and their skills is primarily theirs. Bulgaria lacks people who can clearly and unequivocally stand behind their words, without allowing anyone or anything to change their initial direction. Bulgaria does not need to change, we need to change as a society.
What do you give to Bulgaria?
Support and assistance. When you are helpless, you do not have the strength to find the best path for yourself, and a social worker provides you with the necessary protection. If I could give something else to Bulgarian citizens, it would be greater awareness of social work. It is one of the strongest links in every state, but unfortunately, it is not well-known.
Let's also talk about Initiative 2. It has been a whole year since the start of the training. Have you found anything useful from them?
For me, a year has passed unnoticed. It seems like yesterday when I was excited about what was ahead. At the live Design Thinking training, I was impressed by the people I met. The topics we discuss each month are extremely different from my job, and that is an additional bonus for me.
What do you wish for yourself?
I wish to be healthy. The busy daily life, numerous commitments, and lack of time for myself and my family remind me that everything is fixable only if I am in good condition. I wish the FRGI team countless followers, and for everyone in Initiative 2, balance and many positive emotions.