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Hope in the midst of hopelessness

Hope in the midst of hopelessness

The smallest amount can help a lot!

The smallest amount can help a lot!

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A morning in the life of a social worker

There are job descriptions that should say no two days are the same… Stating that within a few hours the number of people you meet and the number of tragedies you will hear will leave you speechless… Such is the life of a social worker at the Only One Mission.   


The day begins… Breakfast service, lineups at the reception desk… A middle aged man sits down by the social workers desk. It is the end of the month, his request is no surprise, he needs 3000 forints missing from the 15000 needed to pay for the monthly cost of the hostel. I try to take care of it. I want to help. Does he have any qualifications? How did his problems begin? 

He is a jazz drummer! And must be a good one if he worked abroad years ago. Adventures? On a ship or in a city? He doesn’t say. The point is he took the job and went abroad. He had a flat with a mortgage and a relative asked to move in for a year, with his family, having as he did small kids. They agreed. In place of rent they were to pay the mortgage payments. He checked in on them every month. When he returned home he found he had been deceived, they hadn’t paid a single installment and the bank had foreclosed on the apartment. He lost everything. Now he sits in front of me asking for a few forint to pay for the monthly hostel cost. He too has experienced the humiliation and pain of going from a normal life to one in a shelter.

The next to ask for help is well known to us and has been a guest for years at Only One Mission. Following a stroke he fell into a coma and later in recovery he signed a dubious contract pushed under his nose by the so-called ‘housing-mafia’ and he and his wife lost their home. The two children have grown up and left, and his wife unable to cope with the poverty died. He too lives in a shelter now and sells the homeless newsmagazine on the downtown streets. There is no bitterness in his voice as he speaks of his life. 

The next guest asks for a short term loan. She looks so tired. She withstood thirty years of her husband's beatings and then had enough. A strong woman, her spirit remained unbroken and she found work cleaning in a Budapest plaza. She is trying to arrange for her subsidised housing, for 20000 a month she will have a roof over her head and can try to win custody of her children from her husband. Four of her children are still minors, three are adults. I will try to help with that as soon as I can. 

There is a loud wailing from the reception desk. There aren’t too many colleagues about so I rush to see if I can help. I beaten up woman cries uncontrollably. She has a stitched wound on her head and is traying to say something as we attempt to calm her. We begin to understand… she was sleeping in park with female friend of hers when in the dark they were attacked and beaten. The other woman did not survive and was beaten to death… We fall silent… She doesn’t know what to do now, she doesn’t know if she will ever recover. We do what we can. At times like this even the smallest gestures can have an enormous impact, though they seem like nothing. Nothing can compensate for the tragedy and trauma this woman has experienced but every little kindness can be a salve on her pain. 

I return to my desk. There is time for another case before lunch. Another well known face appears. He came to ask us to help him find work, anything. I know he wants to work and I know that he is unable to work, at least at many things, because of his health. He grew up in state care. He lived with a family between the ages of 12 and 14 and is so happy that he had the experience of living like that. He was sent back for some reason and somehow he grew up. A few years later while travelling on a train he sat next to an open window and someone tossed a rock through the it… for fun? Out of boredom? It never came to light. He, nonetheless, suffered a skull fracture and sustained a brain injury. He completed several months of rehabilitation therapy, but he will never be the same. He would like to work, though a few years ago he suffered a severe spinal hernia when helping someone lift a heavy object. The doctors say he should avoid physical work and he will have a spinal operation soon, though there are risks to the operation.   

Lunchtime comes and together with the other colleagues we begin to serve the food. The guests, as we prefer to call those in need, line up for lunch. Each has their own story and each finds their own way to us at the Only One Mission.


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