If you can allow me to digress and generalise just a little bit… Over the last few weeks, mostly whilst training either youthworkers or volunteers i have posed the question – What are the advantages or disadvantages to doing detached/outreach work compared to Centre based work in youth clubs/churches.  The usual comes back, with the obvious disadvantage being the weather, lack of control, resources, and the advantages being the freedom in the public space, meeting ‘unnattached’ young people and also meeting them in a place that they ultimately choose. However, i was wondering, and thinking about the advantages, as well as the thought that as a detached worker its rare that we would ever stop observing or researching the area a.k.a learning from the young people, from the community as i am with them.

And so i wonder whether one of the advantages is that detached work provides the worker with a constancy, or a plumb line, that he/she does not travel too far behind the young person, or jumps ahead. Given that the young person controls their reaction in that setting and their response to us. I guess it also means that by listening and learning with them that we draw resources from them in a collaborative way, rather than need to try and keep up or predict their level.

what i am trying to say is that because as a detached youthworker we are involved in the culture of the young person, and with them as this changes around them, as they develop, adapt, challenge or reflect upon it ( Goetschius 1969), then we become ingrained with them in this process.  When we clothe ourselves loosely with the structure of buildings then this distance reduces the withness  of the situation, and the vulnerability of the worker, but also means that the worker is one step removed from learning and living the culture, as seen by the young person. Maybe being detached is not enough, being truly incarnational is?

“in Cultural synthesis, the actors who come from “another world” to the world of people do not do so as invaders. They do not come to teach or to transmit or to give anything, but rather to learn, with the people, about the people world” (Freire 1970)

This withness also keeps us close to being responsive to the needs of young people as we interact with them, their ups and downs, their challenges and celebrations. Rather than impose, dictate or formulate agendas on behalf of them.  Maybe its just about being grounded in the knowledge of unpredictability, of real life young people in their real chosen contexts?

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