Julie Humes, Youth Project Coordinator in Allendale, writes:
Someone asked me the other day: “How long have you been doing youth club and why do you do it?” … I had to stop and think about it. I’ve done this for so many years now (where many of my first cohorts of young people are now parents themselves!), it’s become second nature; it’s just what I do; a part of me …
I believe first of all, you have to actually like and respect young people; whether you’re a teacher, a scout leader or outdoor educator. I remember taking a group to an indoor climbing wall in Keswick – where the instructor allocated to us was a fantastic climber and told us all about his wonderful climbs in the hills – and his role in the Mountain Rescue Team.
Unfortunately, he had no rapport with young people whatsoever and the kids picked up on this immediately and were quite naughty with him. This guy was doing the job because he liked climbing, not because he liked young people. I’ve seen the same group of kids be like angels with staff who showed an interest in them. The answer is simple – if you like kids, they like you!
In these days of severe reductions in funding at government level (where thousands of youth workers have lost their jobs and youth centres have closed their doors), it has fallen on small charities to support young people, and the quest for funding gets harder and harder as more community groups form and also seek funding. Everyone has to evidence the numbers they are reaching, and the difference their project is making (well, that’s fair enough). The bulk of my time is spent on lengthy funding applications, where perhaps one in ten is successful. As many will know – there is no recompense for the hours and hours spent on an unsuccessful application, and that’s hard.
Contrary to popular belief, youth work is not about keeping kids off the streets and out of trouble. It is an entirely voluntary process for those kids, where opportunities are offered to young people to help them grow and develop into their own contributive lives, and they can choose to come to youth services (be it the youth project, young farmers or scouts) and get involved in that adventure, or not. It’s not for everyone; some young people prefer not to come to organised projects of any kind — while some prefer even more organised activity such as can be found in sport, for example. But for many, the opportunity to experience new things in a safe environment is an important step on the ladder of life.
Whatever they choose to do – and it’s not rocket science – it’s simply about the relationship and trust that develops between staff and young people; where they confide in me — and talk about school, health and life. When I collapse in my chair at the end of a long session – I consider myself blessed and privileged that so many young people keep coming back every week to spend their spare time with little old me.
Contact Julie Humes on 07837 090064 for joining details.