Perseverance pays off for social worker

John Wu’s journey from teenage immigrant with a severe stutter, to Youth Justice Social Worker on the cusp of completing a law degree. 

Published on
25 Sep 2018
John Wu image

A passion for helping people

By his own admission, John Wu doesn't fit the typical mould when you think of a Youth Justice social worker. However, it quickly becomes clear why he's one of the most requested social workers in Christchurch West.   

John was born in Taiwan. When he was seven, he developed a severe stutter. At 15, he moved to New Zealand with his family. 

John completed a commerce degree, but after meeting many Chinese students struggling to adjust to life in New Zealand, he realised his passion was social work.

He was initially worried his stutter might be a problem, but he persevered.

“I thought, if this is really what I want to do, I just have to get on with it,” John says.

A chance encounter

A few years after starting as a Youth Justice social worker in Christchurch, John heard the Children's Commissioner, Judge Andrew Becroft, speak at a training course.

Judge Becroft struggles with a stutter himself.

John says “When I told him I knew about his struggle with stuttering, his manner completely changed from being quite formal to completely relaxed – he even started to stutter too!”.

Judge Becroft spoke to John about certain techniques he used to help minimise his stutter, and how studying law and learning to speak in court had helped him manage this.

A brave decision

John had often thought about studying law to help him see his work from a different perspective. After being inspired by Judge Becroft, he took the plunge and started his degree in 2011.

John was very mindful of making sure his studies didn’t affect his work, so he's completed the course in his own time, even taking annual leave to complete exams.

He's grateful for the support he’s received from his team and managers, and is on track to complete his degree by the end of 2018.

“I can use (my law degree) in my role as a social worker to benefit kids and young people in Canterbury.”

John Wu

What the future holds

Studying law has boosted John's confidence and helped him present in court with young people.

He was recently promoted to Supervisor Social Worker for Care and Protection in Papanui, and has realised there are ways he can use the degree without becoming a lawyer.

“I can use it in my role as a social worker to benefit kids and young people in Canterbury,” John says.

Judge Becroft provided this comment on John's journey.

“As one who stutters myself, I find this story incredibly moving and encouraging.

"It’s clear John’s family and friends believed in him, and he believed in himself. The result is that someone who wanted to help his community is even better equipped to do so.”