March is Social Work Month.  Everyday thousands of individuals across the country touch the lives of millions on a personal level through their work as a social worker.  Social workers are leaders, advocates, and champions helping others to overcome challenges so they can live up to their full potential.

Here at Catholic Charities, social workers make up more than 12 percent of our staff.  Whether it is comforting those suffering a loss or trauma, standing up to protect children and vulnerable populations, or helping those going through a devastating medical or mental health issue, social workers work tirelessly to improve lives and communities.

While we have social workers working across the agency, one of our newer programs, the Compass Program, specifically aims to work with families in Ward 8, DC’s poorest ward.  Families in Ward 8 often struggle to get their basic needs met, and the area is considerably lacking in adequate transportation, food, and healthcare options.

The program is made up of nine full-time Catholic University graduate students who are pursuing their Master’s in Social Work.  Participants are able to attend school at no cost in exchange for three years of work, as a social worker in Ward 8, at Catholic Charities upon graduation.

The Compass program is set up to create an cadre of social workers to walk with families in this economically challenged ward to help them achieve increased personal and economic capital while also becoming their own change agents. Pope Francis said “God will not ask us if we felt righteous indignation, but whether we did some good,” the Compass program provides the opportunity for Catholic Charities to more easily reach out and do some good in this often-underserved community.

Unlike a traditional social worker, participants of the Compass program meet with clients where they are- a library, their home, over the phone, web-based, or other locations.  To help familiarize Ward 8 residents with the program they have created various “Pop-Up” opportunities.  Situating themselves outside metro stops, grocery stores, and other neighborhood locations. As the program continues the goal is to ensure Ward 8 residents have access to social workers.

We know poverty and lack of access to basic goods and services can reduce a person’s ability to navigate through life’s challenges, and as with all our programs and services Catholic Charities strives to ensure our work inspires hope and builds futures.  While National Social Work Month is about to come to a close, we know the social workers at Catholic Charities will continue to work tirelessly on behalf of their clients and communities.