6th March 2020.
Article by Lilufa Uddin.
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What benefit does youth work have on society?
Many will be familiar with the saying: ‘It takes a village to raise a child’. We all have a moral duty and responsibility to inspire and educate the youth to become well-mannered, intelligent and kind members of our society.
Parenting comes in all different shapes, sizes and colours. Sometimes you get it right, and sometimes you don’t. In one area, you may exceed and in another area you may be deficient. Yes you may be good at ensuring your child/children have three balanced nutritious meals and that you pay for them to go to an after-school club, but how much do you know about their mental health? Their hopes and ambitions for the future? Or perhaps you have taught them your mother-tongue, but do you understand the vernacular that they speak in, when they're most comfortable? You get the point. It can be hard to raise a child and as in any modern society, where the youth are spending more and more time outside the house, the moral responsibility to socialise them is far more spread out.
This is where youth work comes in. Youth work is a practice in which practitioners work with young people to develop life skills, act as a positive role model to the youth, provide access to opportunities and enhance their cultural capital. These purposes are carried out in the following ways: educational and creative sessions / clubs, trips to educational / leisure venues and signposting to partner agencies.
I have worked as a youth worker and a practitioner in the youth sector for the last 4-5 years in a range of settings from: youth clubs to alternative provision units. It is an exceptionally rewarding but challenging role. You are constantly running around, monitoring behaviour, dealing with concerns around young people’s physical and emotional well-being, providing information alongside guidance and advice. Don’t get it twisted, there are some chill times, where you’re sat playing dominoes with a group of young people or are leaping with excitement at a trip to the beach. To be an effective youth worker or a practitioner in the field, you need to have excellent communication skills and be able to build rapport with a diverse range of people.
Effective youth work, requires that you have a non-judgemental and compassionate nature too, so that the young person has a safe space to vent, to ask for help and access support. Very often, young people feel disconnected from their parents and wider family, or they may simply want to keep matters private – youth work advocates on their behalf to be care-givers and be almost a super-hero in the young person’s life.
I have worked with a range of young people, who have had a wide array of multiple and complex needs. One particular young person I remember working with had a lot going on at home and she was falling behind in her studies. Through my support, she was able to get a free tutor for her GCSE English and Maths. I also set her up to do a work experience placement at a renowned theatre, which gave her valuable experience. In addition to that, my regular mentoring allowed for me to inspire her to make positive decisions about her future; such as staying away from bad company and focusing on her education.
Ultimately – young people are the future generation of leaders and decision makers. Therefore, it is imperative that we invest in socialising them to the best of our ability and take time to understand, rather than reprimand. With effective youth work in our society, we can develop positive change in young people and inspire them to make positive decisions in their life.
As well as a Youth Worker, Lilufa Uddin is a Freelance Journalist who currently writes for The Guardian newspaper in the UK, and has also worked with the likes of Channel 4 News, The Sunday Times, The Daily Mail, BBC News and MTV.
Lilufa currently does not use social media but if you would like to get in contact with her, you can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Transforming Society, "Valuing Young People" (http://www.transformingsociety.co.uk/2019/04/03/valuing-young-people-valuing-grassroots-youth-work/), transformingsociety.co.uk.
- The Guardian, "Youth Worker voted Guardian Public Servant of the Year" (https://www.theguardian.com/society/2019/nov/27/youth-worker-voted-guardian-public-servant-of-the-year), theguardian.com.
- Gov.uk, "Hundreds of students to take Youth Work qualifications after new Government Investment" (https://www.gov.uk/government/news/hundreds-of-students-to-take-youth-work-qualifications-after-new-government-investment), gov.uk.
- London Youth, "Youth Work Campaign" (https://londonyouth.org/youth-work-campaign/), Feb 20th, 2020, londonyouth.org.
All images used in this article are Royalty Free.