The Value of Social Work Campaign Champions Program
Social Worker Champions: Michelle Zabiaka & Tyrell Sargent
Social workers can be found in many interesting locations, but few would expect them to be found at the Saskatoon Public Library. Tyrell Sargent and Michelle Zabiaka are Outreach Workers at the library and they are assisting people who are looking for help regarding their social needs.
Providing assistance through the Saskatoon Library
“My coworker and I have nicknamed ourselves, ‘The Odd Job Squad’, as we are attempting to fill the gaps between services,” said Sargent. “We do anything from helping someone apply for income assistance, looking for housing and employment to even just chatting over a cup of coffee. We serve people from all walks of life and our services are completely free.”
Sargent added that what he likes best about social work is simply the opportunity to work with people and trying to create a positive impact in the community.
“Everyone deserves support in their lives, but not everyone has someone to share that with. I like talking with people and the fact that some people want to let me know how they are doing is very meaningful to me,” he said. “Over the course of my career, I’ve had clients tell me I showed them a kindness, understanding and/or patience they had never experienced before; and that is the reason I became a social worker.”
These sentiments are shared by Zabiaka. Out of all the things that she enjoys about social work, she said her favorite part is the amount of difference she is able to make in someone else’s life.
“Even if what you think you are doing is small and insignificant, many people we work with have so much going on in their lives, and just providing them the opportunity to sit down, have a coffee, and share what is going on in their lives has the greatest impact.”
The duo had different reasons for becoming social workers. When Sargent was in high school he met a social worker who inspired him to join the profession, while Zabiaka lived in a small town where there were limited resources and she realized the impact that social workers could have.
Sargent knew going into university he wanted to be a social worker and like any university student, he sometimes wondered if he was doing the right thing. “I had a lot of doubts along the way, even after I was accepted into the program,” he said, but he attributed his success to the struggles he faced in university and the constant support throughout his education and even his early career.
With a Bachelor of Social Work degree in hand, Sargent started his first job as a probation officer in Buffalo Narrows. He said this is where he grew into his own and gained invaluable experience for social work.
“I learned how to rely on my own skills and abilities rather than defaulting to referring clients to specialized organizations; it taught me to be much more self-reliant as a social worker. It also taught me a lot about connecting with communities and the importance of being involved in the community not just as a social worker, but also as a person.”Zabiaka said it took a while to find her true passion. She started as a psychology student at the University of Manitoba but with the professors going on strike for nearly two months, her journey took a different turn. She learned about the Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) program through the University of Regina, where she could do similar work to psychology but ultimately spend less time in school.
“After I had switched into the BSW, I felt better about the direction I was heading and was genuinely interested in what I was studying,” she said.
After completing her degree, Zabiaka started her career with the Ministry of Social Services in Saskatoon under the Income Assistance Division, but it was through her volunteer position with the Saskatoon Police Service in Victim Services that allowed her to flourish in the field.
“I really enjoyed this experience because it allowed me to have a compassionate approach and was better able to support people.”
To any young person considering a career in social work, Sargent had a very important message. “Social workers do make a difference. They are the ‘boots on the ground’ people that get work done. There is so much you can do with a BSW if you are patient and put the work in.”
Zabiaka added that it’s a great way to challenge yourself and grow as a person and a professional. “If you would like to help someone in a holistic way, then social work is the job for you. You get to look at someone’s personal thoughts and feelings, their environment, and their social community. It’s about trying to piece together a different puzzle every time you meet someone.”