Leila Wood

As Interviewed by Nathaniel Heffron, March 7th, 2017

Leila Wood: In Her Own Words As Interviewed By Nate Heffron

So a social worker is somebody who helps somebody, and a social worker is different from other kinds of helpers like a therapist, firefighter or police officer because they have a value set. Social work has a set of values, and one of the most important set of values in social work is social justice, which means working for everybody to be able to have equal access and fairness and to undo oppression. That’s what makes social work really unique, and so what social work means to me is that it’s helping people and ending oppression at the same time,and that’s why I was drawn to it in the first place.

So in the shelter I worked at had something called transitional housing, which would be apartments in the building next door that people could live at for up to two years, so it was longer term and there were twenty families that lived there. Those families were from all around. Some were from Indiana in rural areas, where they had farms, and were used to raising animals, and their partners were truck drivers, and just different cultures. There were a lot of women who had come from Chicago and Detroit and lived in urban areas. So there were people of all races and all religious backgrounds, so I would hear a lot of stories.

I would hear stories about their abusive partners, but what people talk about more is their family and their lives. One thing that is really important to remember about the women that live in these shelters is yes, they’ve experienced abuse and they’ve experienced trauma. But that doesn’t define them. What defines them is their personality and the way that they are, just like you and me. So really what I would hear from people would be about the best recipe for barbecued chicken, or I worked with a woman who was from Yemen and she would talk about the customs in that country. I also worked with a woman who was an expert farmer, who then lost her farm but had all these skills and abilities that had helped deliver baby calves things i can’t imagine doing. So really, those were the kinds of stories you would hear from people day in and day out.