Youth work? What is it? What does it mean?
In all honesty I myself was naive to the meaning of ‘youth work’. I started volunteering as a youth worker a few years ago and at the time I worked with an amazing team who inspired me and gave me an insight into the true meaning of youth work. This is where I developed a passion for working with children and young people and wanted to help support them to make a difference.
But how do we as experienced practitioners provide that stability and support for a young person? Youth work is much more than whipping a pack of cards out or kicking a football around. There is a deeper sense of meaning and understanding to the profession than some may realise. It’s about having time for that young person and listening to them but not persuading them by our own thoughts and feelings. Learning to support them holistically by creating positive learning experiences and allowing them to create their own identity in our world, by giving them the voice and recognition they deserve. We somewhat try to embed ourselves in their lives so we can try to gain an insight into what life is like through their lens. This allows us to understand some of the inequalities and challenges they face and helps us to improve social mobility.
We are human, we make mistakes, we reflect, we learn, we grow, however working with the young people we do only makes our job much more rewarding and worthy. Yes, it may be utter chaos at times and no two days will be the same but one thing I think a lot of youth workers would agree with me on, is the difference we try to make to that young person and that amongst everything puts the biggest SMILE on our face!
Our voices can seem lost at times and sadly we do not always get the recognition we deserve. However, this year showed us a glimmer of hope and we were bursting with pride when the government recognised and awarded the youth sector ‘key worker’ status. Finally, they understand the positive impact youth workers have on young people’s lives and how vital they are in meeting their needs. This highlights the importance of our work and shows the passion and dedication each and every one of us provides.
Amongst all of these uncertain times we have had to deal with different ways of working. This means flexibly adapting our own ways of working and exploring areas which some of us may be new too. Me for one! I don’t know about you but it has certainly taught me a few things over the past few months and made me reflect!
So here is a big shout out to all you youth workers near and far. You are all awesome in helping raise young people’s aspirations but also adapting your own ways of working and the challenges this may have brought along the way. I think we will all agree we cannot wait to move forward with our services again and return to making more memories with our young people.
However, I think the biggest appreciation should go to all the young people we have worked with and the adversity they have faced through this global pandemic. Rest assured we as youth workers will be there every step of the way to help you return to the new normal ways of working and support you to continue to grow and flourish.
So as we now are approaching (hopefully) the last stage of this pandemic we hope to welcome you all back to our youth clubs as soon as it is safe to do so. For without you allowing us to do what we do our job would mean nothing!