Marie-Nella Leitner- TODAY in Seychelles publication 23rd March 2022

Social work
“It is a vocation more than it is a job”

Over a week ago, the world celebrated World Social Work Day. World Social Work Day is observed every year on the third Tuesday of March, with 2022’s celebration falling on the 15th of March. The event recognises the hard work and diligence of social workers, with the International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW) spearheading the commemoration, which includes the promotion of many social projects. In observance of this day, we spoke a little to Marie-Nella Leitner, a long-serving social worker, about her passion, the qualities that make her suited for the task, as well as what World Social Work Day means to her.
Devoted and passionate, Marie-Nella Leitner is a practicing assistant social worker, who’s been in the field for nine and a half years now. Previously a nurse, Mrs. Leitner is stationed under the Child Protection Unit. Her empathy, compassion and steadfast willingness partially inspired her to take up social work, however, the biggest motivator was wanting to ensure that positive change took place, wherever she could make it happen.

Mrs. Leitner is especially devoted to transforming the lives of children for the better, particularly those who are in vulnerable situations or are victims of abuse. Despite having always dreamt of working in social services, Mrs. Leitner did not immediately pursue her desires, instead working in healthcare for a number of years before eventually joining the Child Protection Unit a branch of the Ministry of Employment and Social Affairs. She explains that social workers advocate for the voices within society, that are often suppressed or unable to express themselves – this is one of the most important and valuable aspects of the profession to Mrs. Leitner.

But not every new beginning is always easy. Mrs. Leitner confesses that it took a little while for her to truly find her footing in the field. “There were certain things I witnessed that took a toll on me. I recall a number of child sexual abuse cases leaving me with an awful feeling in my gut. I couldn’t imagine people being so cruel to a child, even if the evidence was right in front me.” The now veteran social worker, credits her past work in a psychiatric ward, as what helped her overcome these obstacles. She mentions that her experiences definitely came in handy when handling certain scenarios.

Now on the cusp of celebrating ten years of service, Mrs. Leitner’ s dedication has certainly not gone unnoticed by her colleagues. As part of World Social Work Day, a number of social workers, including Mrs. Leitner, have been awarded for their long years of service. At the Department of Social Affairs’ recent ‘Visioning and Strategic Goals of the Department’, the Minister for Employment and Social Affairs, Patricia Francourt, awarded Mrs. Leitner for her ten year-long service. Mrs. Leitner was notably the only staff member who was honoured, being the only one to have completed a decade of service as a social worker.

She describes social work as a “vocation” rather than a job, agreeing that she would encourage others to join the field due to the constructive impact that they may have on another’s life. She encourages men in particular to consider social work as a viable career choice. “Good communication, being an active listener, having compassion as well as sympathy and empathy for others is crucial to the job.” Speaking a little on World Social Work Day, Mrs. Leitner explains that this day is important to her, as it focuses on those that are making a difference.

The theme for World Social Work Day 2022 was ‘Co-building a New Eco-Social World: Leaving No One Behind’. Asked to give us her own interpretation of this theme, Mrs. Leitner keeps it short and simple by telling us that to her it means setting aside all differences, so that we may uplift as many who are in need as possible

by H. Pragassen