This week has been a ‘mixed feelings’ kind of week. This evening i have found myself inspired by stories of how a youth work project has had significant effect on young people even in a short time of being open, of how creating a homely environment has given young people a safe and inclusive space, just great. This week has also seen the end of the acoustic cafe, a voluntary youth work venture that had undergone a number of guises in Perth over the last 12 years (i wont put up the photos, but theres a fair few on facebook) and as you know, in my day job i have had my last day of being the centre director of DYFC today in the process of its closing. And so, as i was driving back from the youth club this evening, a journey of about 25 miles along the slightly misty, atmospheric roads of teeside, it struck me how much of the really gritty moments in youthwork practice go unnoticed. Yet, if we ever get the pleasure of having a ‘successful’ work or ministry, this has been through the blood sweat and tears of challenges, insults, trials and errors. And, so, because these things will hardy ever get a mention at the ‘end of season awards for youthworkers’ if there should even be such a thing. So, I wonder whether these should be the categories for the alternative youthwork awards for 2017:
- Services to the Motor Industry award. This award goes to the youthwork volunteer who has had their car trashed from the inside our outside the most by young people. So replacement wing mirrors, wings or bumpers, to upholstery, seats or spillages. Could also include Minibus repairs.
- Night club award – This award goes to the best bouncer on the door of the club. You know the person, the one that endures the cigarette smoke for the sake of a decent conversation, the one who gets bruised arms for preventing some young people from entering, the one who is happy wearing the 3 layers of jackets, the one who us happy to miss out on the action inside.
- Not reacting to obscenities award. This award is for the youthworker who not only takes the obsenities head on, knowing they’re not usually personal, lets the young person vent, and then by the end of the evening has been able to have an amazing conversation with them. What a hero!
- Appreciated in front of their mates award. We all know what its like. Put blood, soul and energy into appeasing the
little bratsenthusiastic young people on a weekday evening, and they respond with a great evaluation and thank yous. Yet when you meet them in town the following week on a lunchtime they blank you completed, and you feel all of half a millimetre tall. So, this award is given for the youth worker or volunteer whom a young person acknowledges when theyre in front of their mates. It might just be an awkward wave, or nod, but it counts.
- Patience of a Saint award. This goes to the youthworker who has to deal with, and still goes to the sunday morning service, even though the main talking point every weeks revolves around the ongoing expectation from the church congregation that their really great youthclub might only be a real ministry when young people go to church. Or that their ministry is only a stepping stone to being a vicar. Deal with all these questions week by week over the coffee, and its patience of a saint award heading your way!
- Finding Magic in the Mess award. This goes to the youthworker who will find something positive, significant and meaningful in a youth group night when windows were smashed (at least the young people were burning energy) , people were insulted (oh look at them trusting us to vocalise their anger), graffitti penises on the wall (oh HOW CREATIVE the young people are). Yes it is the award for finding magic in the mess, for spotting the moment of goodness where the evening was a write off, but they (probably the person on the door) has a GREAT conversation. How flipping marvellous… yes, give them the award…
- The David Brent award. No not for being the most inappropriate youthwork manager, but an award for the youthworker who has thrived, survived or just coped bravely when managed really badly. That someone who has put their work with young people over and above the lack of credit, feedback, support, direction, inspiration or acknowledgement by their manager (if they ever see them) . It could also be known as the self determination award , or management selective blindness award.
- The Aldi Award. This goes for the youthwork project, club or session that has ran the longest on the smallest of budgets. Its whole programme for a year has functioned on generosity and sacrifice alone, and a small annual trip to walk to the park to play football and get an ice-cream. It might be low budget, but it has been high on creative use of free resources, recycling old material, and gets young people to make contributions to pay for drinking water so they can empathise with people on comic relief. However, low on budget neednt mean low on quality, not by a long shot. And just for fun;
- The One story youthworker award. This goes to the Youthworker who only has one set of stories, they may only have one story. Its about when they were in Bath, or when they met this young person who’se life was rubbish but I saved them. Their one story is told everywhere. Their one story validates their whole ministry, work, platform and resource. So, the one story youthworker. Last seen on a platform, last seen touring Britain with only one story.
- The Admin wizard of the year. Nope, i dont know anyone like this. There are good administrators. AND there are good youthworkers. They are mutually exclusive. If you find the youthworker who is ACTUALLY good at admin, then they’re clearly either not really a youthworker, or theyre a youthworker who is doing it because they cant really admit to being an administrator, after all no one really grew up wanting to be an admin person. So, if you find the youthworker who is also the admin wizard of the year, then nominate them, until then, this trophy is staying in the cupboard. with all the rest of the paperwork and mess from last weeks youthwork session, and the dvds, and a half used resource material.
So, there we have it, for 1/2 way through the year, the alternative youthwork awards. Some of the real, and not so real heroes of the youthwork stage, who battle through, with minimal resources (or just one story), who endure and who make something different for young people in their local community. Its not the most used resource, the online platform, or the largest ministry that is going to stand out in the lives of young people up and down the country, its the person who takes it when insults fly, knowing that behind that young verbal rally, really is a person needing someone to say that something can be different and that they have a spark and a gift or ability that they recognise.