keeping safe in an unsafe home
A poem dedicated to victims of domestic abuse and the social workers who support them by Theresa Chadenga
Professional Social Work magazine - 14 May, 2020. Share your COVID-19 experiences here.
i was feeling at home at work when it was announced,
everyone must stay at home and keep safe.
i heard the instruction clearly but pretended i was deaf.
is home where you stay or where you are safe?
it is where you stay, and you are safe?
i thought aloud and let out a sad chuckle.
someone shouted, this is not a time to amuse.
i had no room to give an excuse.
i packed all my stuff off the shelf,
took a moment packing myself,
pulled my bag, dragged my feet out,
my mind so full of doubt.
i needed to cough up some words to explain my situation,
but everyone put their masks on and continued with their motion.
i needed someone to get into my shoes that instance,
but everyone had to maintain the two-metre distance.
like someone voluntarily jumping into hell,
i got into the local bus and my ticket i bought.
looked around, wondering if anyone was sailing in the same boat,
only to realise a few of us were getting off at the same stop,
then we had to branch off to our respective homes.
i dragged myself to my street, got to my home,
stealthily creeped in - my mind telling me
you must stay in, but you need to run out.
opened my window slightly, peeped out while stroking my hair,
wishing i could fly out and disappear into thin air.
i waved and wondered if anyone could see me.
pressed my tongue against the pane - tried to shout help me.
wondered if anyone could hear me.
then along came my heroes.
they did not stand outside
and get carried away
by the beautiful sight, the colourfully painted walls,
the sweet scents of the flowers in the garden
the melodious tweets of the birds in the trees
around the yard,
the healthy-looking fruits hanging
all over the orchard,
the lawn green and soft as fur
in the backyard.
they put on their masks and came inside,
through the backdoor because on the front door was a huge padlock.
they saw the broken doors into my safe.
they saw that all my valuable and precious possessions had been stolen.
they saw the floors, the walls in a mess.
they had a look at my closet,
saw that all my remaining possessions were stained and tattered.
they came into my pantry,
saw all my hunger and all my thirst.
they saw the door through which i spit out
my experiences, my views, my feelings,
a huge padlock put on it and the keys hidden.
they looked at the windows through which i view the world,
all shut, not much light entering.
they found me in the dark.
saw how i tried to switch on the lights inside,
yet the electricity had been disconnected.
they looked at my letterbox,
realised it was blocked.
they got into my lounge,
saw it was empty.
they came upstairs,
saw how my top room was abandoned.
saw the dust, the cobwebs, the rust, the stains, the moulds.
they looked me in the eye and said
yes, we all hate invasion of privacy,
but our privacy should not hurt us.
yes, we all need to stay at home and keep safe
from that which threatens our physical wellbeing,
but we should not stay home and keep hidden
that which threatens our emotional and psychological well-being.
they helped me find my way
out of an unsafe home.
they helped me find my way
into a safe home.
they came armed
with their outer and inner eyes,
with their outer and inner ears.
no need for expansion,
no need for compression,
just their hearts full of compassion,
and their ability for imagination,
of another being’s situation.
they were given masks,
even though some of the people they support need to read their lips.
they had to use their creativity to understand and be understood.
in hospitals they were part of the army,
in communities they were part of the army,
everywhere they were part of the army,
fighting covid: the intruder that threatens many lives - externally and internally.
often, they are just as invisible as most of the issues they look in to.
yet they are a crucial part of the integrated workforce,
just as the issues they look in to are crucial to holistic wellbeing.
social workers helped bridge the gap between social distancing and social wellbeing.
Theresa Chadenga is a social worker at North Manchester General Hospital
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