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Does social work… work? Since I was a junior in high school, I knew I wanted a career that helped others. Maybe work in the nonprofit sector, maybe be a sellout and find a corporate social responsibility job or something along those lines. Then I learned about the real world. I began to learn how much jobs that seemingly help others actually may harm them, how a nonprofit emergency shelter by its very existence depends on a large number of families experiencing homelessness. Does its existence somehow perpetuate the problem that its mission is intended to help? Does the organization and its partner organizations really delve into the root cause of homelessness?

My thoughts on this topic jumble my brain. How can we tackle the institutional faults and the economic structures that promote all that is wrong in the world? Does starting a nonprofit just play into the problem instead of transforming it? As the protests occur in cities around the world and as money is donated to different causes, I ask myself what fuels real change. I’ve come up with a few answers: Anger, empathy, solidarity (even if it is for show), and money.

Money… funny that 20% of the population in this country holds 91% of the nation’s wealth – maybe we shouldn’t depend on that. I recently learned about that the nonprofit industrial complex, which in part allows the ruling class to protect their wealth from taxes… So what do we have left?

I am slowly realizing that true reformative work cannot depend on systems or institutions. I think it depends on self education and the desire to learn about more than just what affects you. To begin with those who empathize, and end with those who are angry. I am young and have experienced a small percentage of what I hope to experience in my lifetime. I look forward every day to opening my eyes to how the world really works and pushing my mid to imagine the kind of world in which I actually want to live.