A day in the life of a...family worker, Farida PatelOct 25, 2023
"I haven't looked back!"
Farida Patel came to the UK with her mum and dad when she was 2 years old. Farida is a practising Muslim, mum of 2 grown up children, a mature graduate, and a Family Worker. With great humility she describes herself as "ordinary” yet has an extraordinary story to tell. Farida worked her way up from leaving school at 16 to her current rewarding role as a Family Worker, picking up the necessary qualifications along the way. Farida is number 6 of 8 siblings and the first of them to graduate, which she did at the age of 50. She is rightly proud of this achievement, as are all who know and love her. Gaining her degree is, apart from her kids, "the best thing I ever did". In gaining her degree and achieving much in her working life, Farida effectively challenged certain traditional and cultural beliefs about "a woman's place", all the while doing so with her characteristic modesty.
Read on to find out more about Farida!
I left school at the age of 16 and joined mum and dad’s family business for a few years. I got married and we started a business of our own, my husband and I. The recession set in and we made the decision to close the business down. He went back to his studies and I had the children by then so I was at home with them. When my youngest became of school age I began thinking about my career. People always said how good I was with children, so I decided to enrol on a TA (teaching assistant) course. During that course I had a year’s placement in my son’s school. At the end of the year the teacher I was working with was so pleased with how I’d worked with her and told me of a paid position that had opened up which I grabbed. I didn’t have a lot of experience, but I learnt on the job. So that’s how it started.
From there I moved up the career ladder one rung at a time starting from learning support assistant working with a child with special needs, to a role as an Advisory TA which involved me going into schools and advising and supporting them with their children with special needs which I did for about 8 years. I then obtained a job as a Family Support Worker in Redbridge where I worked for 2 years. I decided to move on again to Newham. I was doing 2 part-time jobs in Newham, one as Family Support Worker and also an EEP (early education practitioner) which was working with childminders and supporting them to be Ofsted ready. I did that for 6 years. The EEP role was being reviewed and I decided to look for another job and I got my position where I am currently in Camden as a Family Worker. I’ve been there now for the last year, and I very much enjoy my role in Camden. It’s going well so I’m happy!
I consider myself to be a practising Muslim, so my day starts with prayers. At the moment because it’s summertime the first prayer of the day is very early. I’m usually up by 5am to pray and then get ready for work. I have a quick breakfast to get out of the house about 7:45am to grab the train to work. If I’m going into work, it’s because I’ve arranged a visit with a family, have a professional meeting or am on duty for the day supporting any families that may walk into the Children’s Centre or call for help. So, I’ll log on, prepare for the visits or meetings, carry them out and come back to do the necessary paperwork. I will take phone calls in between as appropriate. Some of my lunch time is spent performing the second prayer for the day as well as grabbing some food, eaten usually at my desk. When I go into the office, I try to arrange at least 2 meetings with families, one in the morning and one in the afternoon and in between paperwork and travel fills my day. Work starts at 9am and finishes at 5pm. Commute back home and then again prayers, food, and then just relax and unwind in front of the TV. That’s the working day.
"Any time I'm able to help and support a family,
even if I just make a small difference in a family's life
- that's career success for me”.
There are challenges in my role but also many successes. One success story really stands out and I’ll never forget this parent. She was just amazing. I was allocated to work with her in Newham, but before I could make the initial visit to meet her, she turned up at the Children’s Centre with her suitcases packed, 4 children in tow, saying she was street homeless that night. This mum had no recourse to public funds, she had no immigration status in the country, she had no job and she had nowhere to stay. She was emotional, crying and having suicidal thoughts all day. My job was to get her housing at least for that night which I did although it was a mad rush to get her there in time to sign the necessary documents and accept the keys to the property. But once she was in there, we were then able to work on her immigration status and we were able to sort out more permanent housing for her. Once the children were in school mum went back to education to get her English and Maths qualifications in preparation to working towards a career in nursing. I’m just so proud of what she achieved. I supported her through it, but she did it all. That still makes me smile every time I think about it.
Being brought up in an Asian family the mindset of the culture was that a woman’s place is in the home. She is a homemaker. She doesn’t go out to work. It’s a decision that my parents regretted before they passed away because they saw how I struggled not having the opportunity for further education, not having the qualifications to get a good job. A degree was something I wanted to pursue, especially after I did my TA course. It was something I had dreamed of and hoped I could do. The time wasn’t right for me to begin until I was 47 when I had the opportunity to start my degree through work. I graduated at 50.
Farida on her graduation day
My degree was a BA top up in Child Centred Interprofessional Practice, based at Kingston University. I was inspired by a colleague who was studying for a degree herself. She showed me that it wasn’t impossible. Colleagues and family in general gave me much needed encouragement to persevere and not give up, saying “you can do this”. I studied my degree part-time which meant I was working full-time. It was hard and I found it very challenging - I juggled work commitments as well as a family to look after - but I did it and did it with a First-Class grade! It was the greatest achievement of my life. I had amazing support both at work and at home, particularly from my ex-colleagues (pictured) who became my best friends. We all graduated around the same time.
Farida with ex colleagues and best friends
Initially my career was slow on the take off because of my ethnicity and cultural beliefs about a woman's role. However, times have changed and I'm grateful for that. It is recognised now that it is OK for us to go out and work. It’s become a necessity to be honest for us all to have to go out and work. Mum sadly didn’t see me graduate, but dad did and that was a proud moment for me. I’m the first of my siblings to graduate and the day I got my results we were at a family wedding, and I was surrounded by family, but my dad took me around and introduced me to everybody as “his graduate”. He would say “have you met my graduate? This is my graduate.” He was so proud of me and that was really lovely. So, as I said my career was slow to start but soon took off, and I haven't stopped!
To find out more about Farida, view her LinkedIn profile by clicking here. To read more career journeys of people with remarkable stories to tell, view our other "day in the life" articles on The Careers Company blog page by clicking here.
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