Lorraine Marais: The Heart of a Social Worker

social work

I met her in 2011, when I moved to Hawai`i to become the new BSW program director. She was the Director of the School of Social Work and had been at Hawai`i Pacific University since 2005. It was the chance to move to Hawai`i that made me say yes, but I really thought that I would stay for a couple of years and move on. Lorraine was a primary reason that I stayed. She created an energetic School committed to engaging with the community. I really enjoyed coming to work and being part of this team. Lorraine was such an organizational practitioner. She applied social work thinking to the challenges of the program and the community. She led us to be the largest graduate program on the HPU campus and a robust and growing undergraduate program. She took supervision, mentoring and even strategic planning seriously – using each to create change and help her team to grow. Lorraine was always growing!

Lorraine was community focused. Most of you know about Lorraine’s early influences and how that ties into her focus on her community because she was generous with her stories. She grew up in South Africa. Her ancestors had been there for nearly 400 years. She often said, “If you grew up in Africa, you always have one foot in this world and one foot in the other world because the ancestors are always around you.”

In the 1970s, she began her social work practice in the rural areas of Northeast South Africa, working with people to develop empowering opportunities to create new futures for themselves. She was a macro practitioner through and through. She joined the anti-apartheid movement early in her career. She was excited to look back on how the people came together to build a new future for themselves and their children through the anti-apartheid. She came to the United States in 1990 through the Kellogg Foundation.

Lorraine was inspirational. Her students talk about the amazing impact she has had on their lives. Lorraine taught at Radford and the Western Michigan University before coming to HPU. Over the years she took about 30 students into South Africa, noting that the experience changed the lives of everyone who went. She touched the lives of hundreds of students over those years. Here are some of the comments former students have made:

  • You’re a very kind, calm and humble individual. Your encouraging words will always and forever in my heart. Angela Quito, BSW Class of 2012
  • She made every student feel valued despite any circumstances that they were facing. She was definitely beloved. Natashia Davis, MSW Class of 2012
  • She encouraged me in so many ways through her humility and passion for Social Work. I always found myself admiring her dedication to her work and the field. All while having such a fun-loving spirit for her students, she surely touched the lives of many. Tamara Ramos
  • Her heart was pure gold and very compassionate like a true Social Worker. Kristian Lauronal, MSW Class of 2011
  • Your passion and love for the social work profession was evident. It brings me so much joy to know I was able to learn from the BEST; you were such an easy person to speak with. Thank you for playing a HUGE part in my social work foundation.  Sam Watson (Lorenzo) BSW Class of 2013
  • It is with great honor to say that I am among many students who were taught and learned from Dr. Marais. She was a great teacher, sharing her knowledge was with no doubt one of her passions. Appolonie Nahishakiye, MSW Class of 2013
  • Your smile and laughter were heart-warming and I loved the way you talked lovingly about your family. I will also always remember the story about how you chose to place your dragon tattoo on your hand. You said you wanted it in a place you could always see it! Nothing made more sense than that!  Jewelle Deuz, BSW Class of 2011
  • I was so blessed to have Dr. Marais as a teacher, mentor, and a friend. When I met her I was a scared single parent starting a Master’s program and had so many bumps in my journey but she never gave up on me and thanks to her I finished, I am no longer scared and I now have my own private practice. She will never be forgotten. In Hawaiian culture we never say goodbye we say until we meet again. Joelle Branch, MSW Class of 2014

Lorraine was diagnosed with cancer in 2018 while in South Africa. She moved back to the U.S. to receive treatment and be nearer to her children, Lizelle and Jack and granddaughter, Maya. She entered the Van Mall Retirement Community in Vancouver, Washington. Her love of community continued there as she organized a discussion group on raising consciousness on “what we, as seniors, learned throughout life and how we were resilient to overcome many challenges and obstacles.” An idea grew out of that discussion group to collectively write a book to share their stories of events that changed the direction of their lives with family and friends.

Lorraine Marais passed away on August 12, 2020. She touched so many lives. At her virtual memorial, the song ‘I am Light’ by India Arie was played. I encourage you to take a listen. If you would like to listen to the moving memorial, here is the link:  https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1w5cCU3Pr0Apu6Skf57YWMDSlHX4KpYrV?usp=sharing

Thank you, Lorraine for carrying the light to so many of us! Your memory is a blessing.