Olive Aneno is a former Leadership Development Program student who has previously shared her story with us. Recently we asked Olive about her career as a social worker.
Why did she choose social work? And, what are the differences she sees in the children of Uganda and the children she works with in the U.S.
This is what she shared with us,
Thirty years ago, I had no hope of ever even attending school, let alone wearing a pair of shoes or speaking English. I worked in the fields at an early age and also tended to the cows every day.
I used to envy young girls who wore slippers (flip flops) and I dreamed of having my own pair one day.
Little did I know that this dream would be fulfilled when I became part of the Compassion International program.
I not only was able to wear flip flops, but wore my first shoes and was able to attend school for the first time.
After watching my grandmother care for other children and how that made her happy, I decided to become a social worker. I wanted to experience the kind of happiness that poverty did not take from her.
I accepted Jesus at the age of 5 and always looked up to my grandparents who were my mentors. I dreamed of the day I would be of help other children. I led praise and worship, which I enjoyed very much but I wanted to do more.
When I came to the US, I wanted to study social work but I do not think that I was prepared for what I was getting myself into. I completed two internships at the Red Cross and another at a domestic violence offenders treatment center — which was so different from my experience in Uganda.
In Uganda there were not many known treatment groups for domestic violence offenders, and the women always suffered silently due to fear of losing the father of the children who in most cases was the breadwinner. These women also feared having to refund their dowry.
Upon completion of my graduate studies in social work, I started working with children with severe emotional behaviors. This was challenging as I had never seen the kind of mental illness that these children were experiencing.
In Uganda, I was used to such children being prayed for at an overnight event and the pastors would follow up and support the family in the child’s recovery.
I later joined a state agency where I investigated child abuse and neglect. I worked with these families for six years. Most of the families had food to eat, somewhere to sleep and had jobs.
But during these investigations I discovered that, a majority of the people I encountered were poor emotionally and spiritually.
Children in Uganda were mainly poor physically and sometimes emotionally. But, a majority of the children were rich spiritually as parents emphasized going to church even if they themselves did not attend.
Ugandan children are attracted to the singing and also the stories that were told in churches. As a child, knowing Christ and believing in His resurrection was far better than having no shoes or having one meal a day.
Coming to the U.S. was a great change for me as well spiritually. I did not have any traits of physical poverty that I experienced in Uganda as a child. Everything that I needed was only a phone call or a click away.
These become distractors for some time and I realized that I needed a deeper relationship with the Most High and thus my quest for more in-depth study of who I am in Christ. Friends at church and the community were able to help me deal with these differences.
I am thankful that through Compassion I learned that physical, economical and emotionally poverty should not prevent a child from knowing that Christ loves them and cares for them.
WE LIVE TO KNOW CHRIST MORE AND MORE AND MAKE HIM KNOWN.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Born in Uganda, Olive Aneno attended South Carolina State and The University of Georgia where she earned a Bachelors and Masters in Social Work, respectively. Olive lives in Georgia with her son.