The Basics of Social Work: How to Help People Best

When disaster strikes—an earthquake, hurricane, or other—the first thing that we often think about is how we can help. When we see on the news or on social media platforms all of the people who are struggling, all we want to do is give them the food, money, and other basic necessities that they may need. This is our idea of helping them. It’s our way of helping in ensuring that they will survive whatever disaster that they have experienced. They didn’t survive unscathed—they may have lost entire homes. But at least, with our help, they will be warm and fed at the rescue centers.

Because this is a common way of helping those in need, many of us tend to believe that this is the best way to actually help them. But, in reality, it may be not. To understand the best ways we can help people and entire communities uplift themselves from trauma, poverty, discrimination, and other social issues, we can look at the basics of social work. These are the best ways we can help people.

Guide People in Gaining Knowledge and Skills

We’ve all heard of this saying: “Give a man a fish, and you’ll feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you’ve fed him for life.” It’s often rumored that this saying comes from the great Confucius himself. And that makes sense because there’s so much value to it. If we want a community to uplift itself from poverty, we don’t just make food and money donations. No, we guide people so that they get jobs and use their own earnings to feed themselves.

This is why many nonprofit organizations are conducting programs on education, skills-building, and other professional development opportunities. People don’t need to rely on us for their basic needs. What they need are the knowledge and skills that would enable them to compete with the rest of the workforce.

Equip People with Tools

The quote about fishing has so much value to it. But, unfortunately, it’s incomplete. After teaching a man to fish, the work isn’t done. This is because what will he do once he learns how to fish if he doesn’t have a fishing rod and he can’t afford to buy one? This is why after helping people gain knowledge and skills, the next thing that we should help them with is finding the tools and other resources that they may need to put their learning to the test.

After teaching to, say, plan, establish, and run a business, we need to help them get their startup capital. This means offering them loans. After teaching them to be more tech-savvy, we need to help them get their own computers. After teaching them how to build houses, we need to help them get construction materials. This step in helping communities may seem ordinary and already a given. But, unfortunately, too many people forget about it when they are on a quest for those in need.

Uncover the Root Cause to Lead to Long-term Solutions

Live Aid, a major benefit concert held in 1985 in two locations (Philadelphia, U.S.A., and London, U.K.), is one of the most recognizable fundraising events in history. The world’s most famous and impactful musicians at that time gathered together for one event to raise money for relief goods for Africa. It was a huge success, having raised over $125 million.

The good intentions were clear—the people behind this huge event literally wanted to “feed the world.” But many have criticized this fundraising event because of the way it addressed the idea of helping. Famine was the most direct issue that Africa was facing at that time. But if we really wanted to help, we would look past that issue and uncover the root cause of it: poverty. To end famine for good, people needed to end poverty for good.

According to the United Nations, an estimate of about 690 million people are hungry. This means that nearly nine percent of the world’s population are struggling with the lack of food. To help them, we can conduct feeding programs every single day. That’s something that many nonprofits already do. But to truly end their hunger, we need to start with the root causes.

If we really want to help entire communities and even make a career out of it, we need to really consider first our idea of helping. We need to make sure that our efforts will lead to long-term solutions, which, in turn, will lead to the prosperity of all.

Meta title: The Best Ways to Help People
meta desc: The core of social work is helping people. But sometimes, our idea of helping isn’t as effective as we think. These are the best ways we can help people.