(pic taken from CUF)
Often I get asked about what it takes to be a volunteer for the street based detached youthwork, So, what would make for good qualities for being a detached youthwork volunteer?
Here are a few pointers from me, with the importance on being ‘ideal’ …
- The ability to think about what kind of person a young person might want to be approached by, and be as like that as possible.
- Have the ability to hold back initially vocal tones that might be judgemental, until that is you start to think less judgementally about young people. Its iomportant to lose deemed adult status, and interact person to person.
- The quality that looks for the positive moments in each interaction with young people
- The ability to hold your nerve when young people decide to test boundaries by asking questions, and to realise that’s all they’re doing..to be quick thinking, but not necessarily quick acting or talking..
- The desire to listen to young people, taking into account what they’re saying, and really listen to them
- The physical ability to be able to walk, or stand still in the public spaces with young people
- The ability to have conversations with young people – maybe not make the first move, but to be able to hold a conversation with young people that gives them the chance to direct the chat, explore topics at their ease, to respect them.
- The desire to be interested in young peoples immediate concerns and realise the significance of these in the life of young people.
- The ability to reflect on the conversations, values, and barriers that young people face.
- The ability to work in a team with someone else, to lead it, to be led in it and to be aware of the space & environment that you’re in with the young people
- The desire to learn a new skill, or transfer all the abilities already in use in other areas.
- The compassion to care about young people, who are often judged before understood, to see them as people, as human, as gifted and creative and want to give them the opportunity that enables this to happen.
- The Humility to apologise when you make a mistake in speaking to young people, when the question is out of tone, or trying too hard.
Aside from the physicality of being able to walk around an area, age is relatively no barrier, being interested in being present, valuing and understanding life through a young persons eyes, and explore their future with them. Maybe these characteristics are the same for centre based youthwork – except the walking aspects, and I wonder if the same emphasis is on conversations, reflection and power. But they wont be too far different.
Nevertheless, if you’re up for getting to know young people, trying to understand young people in their space, and discovering the reality about young people in the UK, then do some detached youthwork – see them for who young people choose to be. Itll only be when you walk with them, that transformation is really possible.