By Sharmain Grainger
“If you want to enter this profession, you have to really have a love for working with people. You have to genuinely want to see improvement in the lives of persons in various circumstances and you have to be committed to the job in order to see results. You have to be disciplined, confidential… and you must have integrity.”
While many people may or may not subscribe to the notion that it takes a village to raise a child, there are times that, that very village may be in need of professional support to set it on the right course.
Religious and other social organisations have been known to step up to the plate and have had, on many occasions, many meaningful outcomes in this regard. But then there are others that have been known to lend support too. Within the category of others are professionals who are known as Probation Officers.
Probation Officers are trained professionals retained by Government through the Ministry of Social Protection, who are tasked with helping to address many of the social problems within our society.
While in some cases the backing of the police force and other entities may be required, Probation Officers have been known to deal with family-oriented issues ranging from domestic violence to marital issues, and have even on many occasions had to render support to persons with suicidal ideation. In fact, a whole gamut of other social issues is thrown at Probation Officers, whose mandates span a national scope.
Currently taking on the role of Senior Probation Officer with zest and vitality is Mrs Trenetta Elliot. Trenetta was retained as an entry-level Probation Officer some 10 years ago by the then Ministry of Labour, Human Services and Social Security [now the Ministry of Social Protection].
But even before being employed as a Probation Officer, Trenetta recognised that the profession was often a thankless one and certainly wasn’t a money-making venture. She had undertaken a University of Guyana [UG] attachment at the Ministry and recognised that working there required that you have a passion and desire to see positive change.
“If you want to enter this profession, you have to really have a love for working with people. It is not about the money first and foremost…I know money is important, but it is not about the money. You have to genuinely want to see improvement in the lives of persons in various circumstances, and you have to be committed to the job in order to see results. You have to be disciplined, confidential and you must have integrity.”
By the time she was employed and even before she was elevated to a senior post, Trenetta had accepted that her role was one that would see herself and colleagues, “wearing many hats,” and enduring challenges at times, in order to realise the desired results.
“We provide psychosocial support in terms of providing counselling for relatives and persons who are in need or are having difficulties, and we also provide supervision to juveniles who may be deemed out of control or who display delinquent tendencies. We also provide assistance to the courts in terms of helping them with the preparation of reports for persons who would have come into conflict with the law, whether it’s adults or children. Those reports assist the courts in terms of adjudicating matters. We do a whole host of things including community activities; we go into schools and do talks…” Trenetta related.
Even as she underscored, “Our role is very important,” Trenetta also observed “sometimes it is not seen that way.” Her disclosure in this regard is hinged on the realisation that “Sometimes people take for granted the work of a Probation Officer.” But this has not been a deterrent to Trenetta, who not only fully embraces her role, but has been helping to make marked improvements in society in too many ways for it to be detailed in this article.
But just about anybody can access the services provided by Probation Officers, the likes of Trenetta. Adults, youths, families – in groups or individuals – can seek out the services that are offered at no cost and from Social Protection Ministry locations throughout the country.
“We have departments in all of the administrative regions and persons are encouraged to go and speak with an officer…once it is a matter we can deal with, we deal with it to the best of our abilities,” Trenetta informed.
Undertaking the Probation Officer role is particularly important since, according to Trenetta, “if persons are not mentally okay or they are not sound, it means therefore that they wouldn’t be able to contribute to society or the country as a whole…If people have issues, we provide the help to fill that void.”
Sometimes providing help may mean referring cases to other entities too.
But according to Trenetta, although the services that lend support to those in need are readily available, many times they are utilised as a last resort.
“Many times people come to us when they are at their wits’ end…when they are on their last and when they feel that they don’t have anywhere else to go; it is only then many of them turn to us for help,” Trenetta informed.
However, even that last-minute intervention has been known to make a significant impact as, according to Trenetta, “because of our intervention we are able to save many individuals from self-harm, prevent many murders and prevent many, many other ills in society from happening. So our work is certainly not about the dollars and cents, but about saving lives.”
Although her early days were spent in New Amsterdam, Berbice,with her maternal grandparents, by the time she reached her schooling years, Trenetta was living at Nabaclis, East Coast Demerara with her parents – Holda and Neberne Scott. Being the only child born to her parents was not too hard, since Trenetta remembers enjoying the company of many cousins and friends. She attended Covent John Primary and Secondary schools, but hadn’t a clear plan as to which career path she wanted to take.
But maybe the natural course of her career was to delve into the path of Social Work. After all she grew up seeing both her parents executing duties with training in this very field. Her father, she remembers, was a Social Work lecturer and her mother a School Welfare Officer. Even an uncle of hers has for years been a part of the Social Work fraternity. Interesting enough, Trenetta’s significant other, Nicklon Elliot, is also a Social Worker by profession.
In fact as professionals, they are all being celebrated this month. March is the month that has been set aside by many countries to, not only honour Social Workers, but to impress upon the public how crucial and instrumental the contributions of these professionals are to the society.
Becoming a Probation Officer for Trenetta started with her pursuing studies at UG in the field of Social Work – first a Diploma and then a Bachelor’s degree. She is currently pursuing her Masters in Social Work too. But when she started out at UG, Social Work wasn’t Trenetta’s first choice. Instead, she first opted to undertake a diploma course in Public Communication before moving on to the Bachelors in Communication.
TEST OF TIME
There is no denying that Trenetta has a love for helping others and helping to improve the society. However, she has found that sometimes utilising her Social Work skills as a Probation Officer could be quite hard at times, especially when she is confronted with cases where persons are faced with difficult circumstances.
“Sometimes, you are faced with situations that will test what you are made of,” Trenetta reflected. But she has been able to overcome such professional challenges by relying heavily on her faith.
Trenetta is a baptised believer who fellowships at the Baptist Church in Golden Grove, East Coast Demerara. She has for the past 11 years held down the position of youth leader there and has even been using her professional skills to help mentor and counsel youths in the faith.
In fact, this chorus leader and manager of the church’s day care programme is also a member of the ‘Campus Crusade for Christ’ non-governmental organisation. The NGO is one that provides support for Christian professionals in the workplace and usually hosts meetings the first Monday of each month at the National Library on Church Street, Georgetown, between 17:00 and 19:00 hours.
It is such support that has been helping Trenetta to keep focused and remain as effective as possible in her professional life. “My faith helps me through it all,” she confided. This is complemented by her knowledge that in order to excel in the field of Social Work, “you have to learn to do social work with yourself before you can be effective when you do social work with your clients.”
Trenetta is hopeful that in the coming years she will be able to make an even more positive and lasting impact on many lives. But according to her, realising such a goal will not be possible without the help of the Creator, family members and others who gave support along the way.
“I credit my success and achievements thus far to my faith in God, the strong foundation set by my parents, along with the support of my extended family and close friends. However, I am especially thankfully for my loving and supportive husband and best friend, Nicklon,” Trenetta shared.
The couple’s union has thus far produced one child – Nathaniel, who will turn three in a matter of weeks. The three together enjoy a great deal of family time, which, according to Trenetta, often includes watching family movies and cartoons too.
“Baby loves cartoons, so when baby wants to see cartoons, everybody else looks and enjoys cartoons too,” said a smiling and satisfied Trenetta who is today being bestowed with our title of ‘Special Person’.
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