Thursday, 23 May 2013

The Y blog

Here's the one my colleagues will have all been waiting for, and now seems an appropriate time to write it. 

Tonight I attended a celebration of achievements, for young people in my local area who have done something special and had been nominated by their youth workers to receive recognition for their commitment and input. 

Youth work, for those of you who aren't sure, is actually not about playing pool and table tennis in a youth club on a Tuesday evening. It's about young people engaging voluntarily in activities that help them achieve their potential and promote active citizenship; providing young people with information and tools to be able to make informed decisions about their own lives. Yes I have been known to play pool, however I should mention here I am terrible at it, and (here's a secret) I don't really care about the game, it's about the conversation and interaction I'm having with that young person (which they are oblivious to) whilst they totally thrash me. It's like a superpower, being able to talk to a teenager who may not speak to teachers or parents, but feels comfortable to speak to their youth worker, and doesn't realise they are doing it. Genius. 

So here's another piece of interesting history, I never actually wanted to be a youth worker. I wanted to be a drama teacher, however I think someone had other plans for me. One chance placement in a pupil referral unit (with a young man who called himself "tubbs") changed my way of thinking. I took on a 6hr a week post, and when I finished Uni started to pick up odd hours on other projects - primarily open access provision. I loved my job. So much so that I turned down full time roles to enable me to stay with the work I loved. 

Time passed, things changed, government changed, budgets changed. Cuts happened. Youth work was one of the first things to go. The process lasted a long time, and I saw every single one of my colleagues leave the team. I was literally the last person standing. And worse than that, the job I loved had melted away before my eyes. Everything I loved had gone. 

However, all was not lost. A fabulous new youth work charity arrived on the scene to help pick up the pieces, and luckily for me I was employed by the charity to continue to work with one of the youth clubs I had been running, for 4 hours a week. 

The club is a very special group to me, and tonight I was pleased to present 12 of the young people with certificates for their achievement in the "come dine with me" project. The group worked in small teams to plan, prepare, and serve a three course meal. This sounds simple, but when the group have a diverse range of needs, abilities, and differences, it can present challenges. Each young person had to overcome their own difficulties to complete this task, and I am so proud. 

I also presented awards to my valuable volunteers. Two of which are young people who have come through the youth provision and wanted to give something back. At this point, I became literally speechless, tears filled my eyes and I choked on my words "without these young people we would not have a youth club to go to" (see other blog "youngsters have a new place to go"). Of course, they thought it hilarious that they made me emotional, but this is only the second time I have been so proud that I cried in front of a room full of people. Both times, this has been because of the actions of young people I have had the joy and pleasure to support. 

Tonight was a milestone for me, it was a celebration of all things good about the young people we work with, and even more a celebration of the amazing charity I am proud to work for; the amazing staff who I am lucky enough to work with; and the emotional investment and commitment of each and every one of them. I am proud to work for a charity where staff go above and beyond, every time, to support and develop young people. Quality youth work is not something that you learn in a university, or a magic power you get when you put on a t shirt, it's developed within staff who have had support and time invested into them to help nurture their skills. I have been extremely lucky to have been able to have been supported by a team who I had once lost, and now the same team I have regained. My love and passion for youth work is alive and well once more, having mourned a great loss but replaced it with something even more special and even more amazing. I'm one of the luckiest people alive, surrounded by an incredible team, and even more incredible young people. 

All of this, because of "tubbs". 

In future, when people ask me why I bother going to my second job after a long day, I will simply say "Y not!" 

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