Student Spotlight: Sanjana, Social Work Student

Sanjana is a student from North India currently doing her masters in Social Work at Liverpool Hope University. We caught up with her following her completion of a 70-day student placement with Savera UK, to find out what she learned from the experience.

What was the focus of your work while on placement with Savera UK? 

“During my placement I worked with the Direct Intervention team, taking assessments for survivors of ‘honour’-based abuse, undertaking outcomes monitoring, and helping with safety plans and risk assessments. Attending Weekly sessions, interacting with survivors has been inspiring and taught me a lot. Also had the opportunity to work with professionals and advocate on behalf of our clients, making sure everything is in place  and their needs has been met.”

What surprised you about the role? 

“The number of cases has really surprised me, the amount of referrals that  we receive in a day for Merseyside and Cheshire. Though it has allowed me to learn about our clients’ experiences and hear them through conducting their  assessments, which opened my eyes to what they have been going through and how they’ve being treated. What Savera UK does for survivors is amazing. I’m grateful to have been a part of it.”

What did you enjoy most about the role?

“Everything! I enjoyed it all, so many experiences were new for me and I learned a lot. I had previous working experience but its different to the way Savera UK works. The team here have been amazing, they’ve been there for me, always supportive and guided me through everything. The team always answered any questions I had. I enjoyed making connections with the clients and the wider team. Even though there’s tough topics being discussed, everyone works to create a healthy environment by always checking in with each other.”

Did the placement meet your expectations, prior to starting the role? 

“Yes, it exceeded them, it’s been amazing. I didn’t think that I’d be leaving the placement as a different version of myself from what I arrived as. My professional ability has progressed alongside my knowledge and views of ‘honour’-based abuse and harmful practices. Everyone’s work ethic was really inspiring, every member of the team is so passionate and always ready to help people.”

What did you learn while working with Savera UK? What was the most important thing you’ll take away from your experience? 

“I was able to develop my professional skills and prepare myself for a workplace environment by liaising with professionals and clients regularly. I also learned how to build a positive rapport with clients and work well within a team dynamic under stressful situations.”

“The diverse range of clients meant I became much more culturally aware and knowledgeable. I got to understand how beautiful culture is and how to decipher between culture and abuse. There is no excuse for abuse, although many people tend to excuse certain harmful behaviours under the guise of religion or culture.”

“I’ll take away a new-found understanding and respect for other cultures and the knowledge of how to differentiate between culture and ‘honour’-based abuse. I’ve also gained interpersonal skills that I’ll take with me into my future work endeavours within social work.”

What were some of the more challenging aspects of the role?

“I think the most challenging part was listening to the stories of the clients and their experiences, it took me a while to adjust to that element. My emotional intelligence improved with each interaction and I understand the importance of the work Savera UK does.”

Based on your experience working with Savera UK, what do you think are the biggest challenges facing organisations supporting survivors and those at risk of HBA and harmful practices? 

“I think communication becomes difficult when there’s a language barrier or if clients don’t have access to technology, which in many cases with ‘honour’-based abuse and harmful practices they don’t. Sometimes they’re very restricted and won’t have a means of communication so professionals find it difficult to safely contact them especially if they’re living in an abusive environment.”

What do you think needs to be done to combat that? 

“Everyone is doing their best but more resources and better funding is definitely needed for charitable organisations. However this isn’t always attainable with the lack of awareness about ‘honour’-based abuse (HBA). Having a broader understanding of HBA and harmful practices would allow other organisations to be better equipped. People should also have better access to interpretation agencies and it would be more helpful for these interpreters to be trained in HBA to ensure the correct translation for clients.”

What was the happiest moment of your placement? 

“Although I really enjoyed the moments where we had fun in the office, uplifting each other, the International Women’s Day event was the highlight of my placement. I spoke with lots of professionals and survivors that attended a beautiful celebration and would like to thank Savera UK for that.”

What are your future plans?   

“I’d like to complete my degree and become a licensed social worker, who is able to help people and apply what I learned here in my future practice. I’m interested in the mental health area of social work and the experiences I had here have set me up with the tools I need for that.” 

How will you use your practical experience with Savera UK going forward? 

“Having empathy and compassion for the clients is crucial and the key to building relationships with them in their ‘new beginnings’. I’ll be accepting and will try to help them the best I can. I will apply my knowledge from my time with Savera UK when dealing with potential HBA cases and will be happy to signpost them to this amazing organisation.”

Is there anything else you would like to share? 

“I just want to say a huge thank you to Savera UK and the team members! Everyone I’ve met has been welcoming and was always there to guide me, they’ve been a major part of my transformative journey. I gained more knowledge personally and professionally because of the team, especially thanks to my practice educator Merfat who was supportive and welcoming throughout.“

Thank you, Sanjana, for all your hard work and best of luck for the future!