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Social worker aims to help, motivate

Elizabeth McMillan
Northern News Services
Published Monday, June 21, 2010

BEAUFORT DELTA - Elaine Kraftscik believes social work is about people, not problems.

The social worker says an important part of her work is respect - for people, culture and community.

NNSL photo/graphic

Inuvik-based social worker Elaine Kraftscik, travels to Tsiigehtchic and Sachs Harbour each month and says she's lucky to have a career where she's always learning. - Elizabeth McMillan/NNSL photo

"I'm giving them the tools, and finding those strengths individuals and communities have, and helping them identify those strengths and move toward a resolution they need," she says.

Being able to connect with people is one of the most rewarding aspects of her job.

"The rewards are every day. They don't come in a wrapped up package at the end of the day," says Kraftscik of her job. "It's a smile, being able to work with communities, and individually with people. Just to see one person helping another, that's a reward."

As a social worker with the Beaufort Delta Health Authority, Kraftscik travels every month to Sachs Harbour and takes weekly trips to Tsiigehtchic. Far from being confined to an office, Kraftscik visits elders, schools and families. When she is back in Inuvik, her phone line and door are open

She sees her role as advocating for social justice, and on a day-to-day basis, being there for people when they need to talk or need assistance communicating with someone else.

"I'm just a part of a team, a little piece of it. You work with people," she says.

Her team is composed of nurses and community members, parents and children, community leaders and social services. She hopes her help will allow people to improve their lives. She says her own perspectives have changed and the people she works with continue to inspire her.

"Families and communities are resilient," she says.

Her job involves a range of responsibilities - from child protection to advocacy work. She's started parenting groups in Inuvik and Tsiigehtchic and says she's putting her background of family counselling to use.

"It's about how to develop a relationship with a child, strictly for parents. To develop a relationship with a child with the behaviour you want to see rather than stop the behaviour that's negative," she says.

Kraftscik's career in a helping profession began when she worked at an orphanage in Sydney, N.S., as a teenager. Though she initially thought she would become a nun, she studied social work in Ontario and spent 20 years working as a family counsellor in that province.

But Kraftscik's presence in the North was a departure she didn't anticipate. She was retired for five years before she decided to return to work after her husband died. Drawn by the prospect of adventure in new part of Canada, she was planning a trip North when she saw the posting for her current position.

Though she made plans to drive to Alaska, Kraftscik never made it to the end of the Dempster. But her first, fond impressions of Inuvik stuck.

"People are friendly. You're walking down the street and people say 'hello'. It didn't take me a minute to get adjusted," she says.

Within days, she says she was drawn to the community's warmth. She began work last summer.

On her desk in the Inuvik Regional Hospital, Kraftscik keeps a copy of the children's book "Oh, the Places You'll Go!"

The playful Dr. Seuss classic contains the words "You can steer yourself any direction you choose." Apt words perhaps for Kraftscik's own enthusiasm for the people she works with, and for her approach to life.

We welcome your opinions on this story. Click to e-mail a letter to the editor.