Compassion and serendipity led this future social worker to his true calling

By Maia Odegaard, Marketing and Communications
Photo by David Denofreo

Josh Rasalan could not decide on a career. He wanted something that would allow him to do what he loves: help others help themselves.

“I want to empower individuals and help them realize they have the capacity to develop their skills and abilities to overcome their challenges,” says Josh.

It’s no surprise he eventually chose to become a social worker. But the decision took some time.

It was definitely meant to be

Enrolled in General Studies at Douglas College, Josh wanted to pin down his major. He paid a visit to his high school and talked to a former teacher he trusted.

“She saw how passionate I was about supporting and empowering my teammates when I was part of the leadership program she ran. She suggested I might enjoy social work,” says Josh.

The next step was finding a bachelor of social work program. But the only options were offered at universities, and Josh wanted to stay at Douglas, where he was getting lots of one-on-one time with his instructors.

“And then, as if like magic – literally the next week – I saw Douglas College’s blog post about the new Bachelor of Social Work program,” Josh recalls. “It was definitely meant to be.”

Douglas College Bachelor of Social Work student Josh Rasalan
“I became aware of my privileges as a Canadian-born Filipino.”

Soul-searching pays off

After taking some of the prerequisite courses for the Bachelor of Social Work, he started having doubts. Wondering if social work was really the right fit – or if he even wanted to continue his studies – he knew it was time to do some soul-searching.

Though born in Canada, Josh felt homesick and disconnected from his roots. His parents agreed to take him to the Philippines, where he visited their respective birthplaces.

That’s when he had an epiphany.

“I became aware of my privileges as a Canadian-born Filipino. I saw how many people were facing challenges like poverty and human rights violations, challenges that I may never face. I felt the need to help.”

After his trip, Josh also became more aware of the sacrifices his parents made to give him the advantages he enjoys as a Canadian. With the newfound desire to help his kabayan, a gender-neutral Tagalog word equivalent to “countrymen,” both in the Philippines and Canada, Josh returned to Douglas with a renewed focus.

Giving back to his community

Josh is now completing his Bachelor of Social Work. Once he graduates, he wants to work with immigrants who struggle with mental health challenges.

“Specifically, I want to work with Filipinx youth and their families,” says Josh. “With my family having lived the experience of immigration and the resulting mental health issues, I know this is a pressing issue in our community, and I want to help.”

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