Lydia Hogewoning, ’12, Mennonite Central Committee


Even though Lydia Hogewoning is just a couple years out of college, this 2012 social work graduate has already had a variety of experiences in the social work profession.

“When I look at all the experiences I have had, I laugh because I must have a pretty eclectic resume in regards to the areas of social work I have had the chance to work in,” says Lydia. “However, I absolutely love the diversity of experiences I have, and people I have encountered along the way.”

Lydia’s wide range of experiences began while she was a student in Calvin’s social work program. During her senior year, she completed a year-long practicum with the Maternal-Infant Health Program at the Kent County Health Department. In this role, Lydia accompanied her supervisor on home visits and was involved in a range of case management with expecting or new moms. The practicum gave Lydia the opportunity to apply what she had learned in her social work classes to issues ranging from post-partum depression, to domestic violence, to helping undocumented families gain access to community services.

In addition to her social work practicum, Lydia took advantage of opportunities on campus and in the Grand Rapids community to get involved and learn outside of the classroom. She participated in the Social Justice Coalition and Project Neighborhood, in addition to mentoring a child at Burton Elementary School and studying abroad for a semester in Honduras.

“Calvin really opened up a world of opportunity for me to realize concepts of community, service, and social justice, all of which are very important to me, not only as a social worker, but as an individual striving to live as much as possible in a way that promotes shalom,” Lydia says.

Upon graduating from Calvin, Lydia obtained a position with RockHaven Children's Services, a treatment foster care agency. She started as a Child and Youth Worker working one-on-one with children in foster care with special needs, before being promoted to a Support Worker and taking on a case management role.

In the fall of 2013, Lydia moved to Toronto where she completed her Master of Social Work degree at the University of Toronto, specializing in Health and Mental Health. Lydia has a strong interest in social work in health and public health and had a full year internship as a social worker on a Palliative Care Unit in a local hospital.

Throughout these diverse experiences, Lydia’s passion for social justice and community has remained constant, and she continues to try to find ways to bring shalom to her community. Upon completing her graduate studies, she started looking for opportunities that would allow her to reconnect with her roots in South Africa (where she grew up), as well as to practice social work in a way that aligned with her passions. As a result, Lydia will be leaving in August to participate in Mennonite Central Committee's SALT program in South Africa, where she will be doing social work with the refugee population in Durban.

“Getting this job must have been a God thing,” says Lydia. “You see, MCC recommends applying for their SALT program in February, and I only looked at their website mid-May. I was on their website because, to be truthful, I was homesick for South Africa and just ‘looking’ to see if they by chance had any volunteer positions or anything. Lo and behold, they had a position for someone with a social work background in South Africa! So I called, and they said that oddly, this position hadn't been filled due to lack of the right candidate. I applied, had an interview within a week, and ended up receiving an invitation to join the SALT team for 2014-2015.”

Lydia is grateful for her Calvin social work and international development professors, who taught her what empowerment is really all about and how to create a space to learn from others. She has carried these lessons with her, and will continue to do so as she prepares for her role with the Mennonite Central Committee.

“It is an honor to witness people’s resiliency, and I have been moved over and again by wisdom, insight, and strength of my clients. I will be learning until the day I retire (and wouldn't have it any other way!),” Lydia says. “Practicing social work is so inspiring--it helps me to see hope in even the small things, and to above all, always to strive to advocate for dignity and quality of life for my clients, and everyone for that matter. It may seem like a basic human principle, but if it was implemented to its fullest, I think we would live in a different world.”

Learn more about Lydia's work with MCC by checking her blog.

Written by Meredith Segur, posted June 2014