Susan Carstens is a study in sincere and selfless devotion.
As one of social work’s principal lodestars, Susan Carstens knows full well how this profession’s unique place in the world is rooted in its simultaneous commitment to individual well-being and broader social justice issues. With enduring commitment to the most vulnerable citizens, she’s been going above and beyond the call of duty for the Western Cape Department of Education since 2014.
Apart from major preventative drug and alcohol interventions among children in 28 schools throughout the Matzikama Municipality district, Susan deals with sexual abuse, teenage pregnancies, bullying, hygiene, foetal alcohol syndrome, trauma counselling and suicide prevention. Using marionettes and puppets – depending on the age group – she writes the scripts and thus tries to engage the children in what are often uncomfortable topics. In addition, she presents motivational programmes for senior learners to obtain a 100 percent pass rate.
As a Nuwerus resident, Susan also volunteers her services as facilitator of an empowering parenting programme, 4 Seisoene Kind (4 Seasons Child) in the hamlet. These include Wordworks early literacy and numeracy, drawing, reading and writing, using card and board games, discipline at home and dealing with children’s behavioural problems. “Just seeing the growth in parenting skills is ample reward for me,” she said.
Originally from Sutherland, Susan studied at Huguenot College in Paarl and obtained her B Diac from Unisa in 1983, after which she worked at the Department of Social Development in Vredendal. During her first year of marriage to farmer Daniel Carstens, she taught at Karoovlei Primary in Nuwerus before starting a family in 1986. Even so, she continued with local community work, plus fundraising projects for the school and church.
Adversity catapulted her right back into social work. In 1995 when her one twin daughter was diagnosed with hemiparesis, she embarked on a mission of occupational and physiotherapy to help Ida. Sadly, three years later the ongoing drought on the farm meant they could no longer afford the treatments. Therefore, she re-registered as a social worker and started working at the Olifants River Association for Persons with Disabilities. For the past 18 years, she’s continued doing EAP work after hours.
Susan’s working journey has been much more than a means to earn money. “Social work’s revered code of ethics is clear about its moral mission to empower clients and address both private troubles and public issues, particularly for the least advantaged. Promoting the well-being of children has brought me great joy throughout my professional career. However, I always have a desire to do more,” she said.
An ace with needles, she’s fervent about knitting and crocheting. And ever the educator, at home she teaches the farm workers’ wives empowering skills – from baking, knitting and crocheting to reading and writing. Susan is also on the committees of Vredendal’s Onse Kaia Centre for Displaced Persons and Brand-se-Baai camping site, as well as being the vice-chairperson of the Lutzville Vroue Landbou Vereniging.
To veg out I bake or write
My pet place on the West Coast is Brand-se-baai
My favourite restaurant is Bakinumpelis in Nuwerus
I love eating my own home-baked bread
My signature drink is water
Best TV programmes are any comedy
Favourite reads are articles on social work and Landbouweekblad