Just before Christmas I penned the 35 experiences every youthworker has probably done which included the line that ‘everyone has done detached youthwork once’ and this may or may not be the case. Earlier in the week, I put together an A-Z on detached youthwork which is proving to be quite a popular post (thank you) . I thought for the end of this week I would zone in on the specific and compile a list of experiences that its almost certainly likely that as a detached youthworker you may have experienced , get ready, oh and this does carry a health warning for anyone eating food right now… especially the friday night takeaway:
- You take delight in not being told to ‘F’ off
- One conversation with a group of young people is celebrated as much as the beginning of spring or the reduction in chocolate prices
- You develop weather proof toes and fingers
- Youve had to ponder how the duty of care guidelines work when the drunk young people you’re talking to starting running across the road and climbing up traffic lights.
- Youve told one group where another young person is, only for them to go off, hunt them down and beat them up.
- Youve taken out shares in a Hot chocolate company for the after session drink
- You have used up the years equipment budget on pairs of shoes alone.
- Nothing in the evening phases you anymore, so you’re the one that goes and gets the late night pint of milk or chocolate bar, or walks the dog. Evenings are your environment.
- You have had a young person say that you ‘saved their life’ even though you may have only walked them to the nearest bus stop
- You have tried to find a million different alternatives to ‘detached youthwork’ just to try and encourage trusts to fund it.
- You complained on the quiet nights, but then thought a busy night of conversation was also just a bit quiet too.
- You tried to split up a fight
- Youve been asked for directions from the general public
- You have been mistaken for the Police
- Youve been asked ‘ why are you here?’ – by young people
- You build rapport and start developing connections with a group of young people – only to never see them again
- You have had ‘that’ moment. There is an epiphany moment for every new volunteer – it is all going swimmingly and pleasantly – until ‘that night/session’ – a moment of drama, unpredicted, challenge, – an accident, a fall, a very large group – something that takes it all up a notch.
- You just wish you were out on the streets talking to young people – and not now stuck in buildings because of funding restrictions…
- You love the general public, sorry, I mean, you learn how to react to the general public in the many situations, such as the shouty getting off the bus ones, those near their front gates, the ultra right wing dog walkers who forget their own privilege, those just smoking outside the social club. Ahh bless them all. Its when you get more abuse from this lot than any young people, and realise how challenging the environment is for young people to be themselves in with this much judgement scorned down upon them.
- You have the beautiful moments to treasure like:
- The young male who opens up and discloses stuff
- The positive feedback
- The in depth random conversations
- The young people who do think about their futures
- But not only that, the beautiful moments, where as youthworkers and volunteers the change, revelation and learning is happening two way. And i know this should happen everywhere, but taking volunteers from the beginning of training (where they fear young people) to a point of learning of them and being changed in the conversations is a real joy.
- You write up a session and it takes 2 hours to remember all the conversations- ;-
- You have no idea what to do after becoming a detached youthworker, loving it and then scrambling around to try and find the same kind of role elsewhere, that gives you the same joys, challenges, feelings and delights. (This may just be me. )
- You feel the pain of young people because you see the reality of stuff as it happens. Its not just that they tell you afterwards.
- You discover that many policies for building related youth work, just arent suitable. The grey areas ethically are cavenous.
- You wish that some seasons of detached work never end – theres groups, conversations etc- others cant end soon enough.
- You have left the building without your ID and had to walk/drive back to get it…
- You discover an art of wearing layers upon layers just to have the pretence of staying warm.
- You have been put off take away food for life by the continual avoiding of the ‘remains’ of it splattered across pavements in pretty orange and pale pink colours. (sorry) Even though the smell of the chip shop makes you hungry every late friday night on the streets…
- You’ve tried to second, third, fourth and fifth guess why a young person might just be crossing the road. (usually just to get to the other side)
- You can rest easy knowing that challenging behaviour is less likely, and relatively easy to spot and walk away from.
- You cant lose young people, theyre not yours to lose, though you might spend a while trying to find them
- Youve have responded to urgent calls by police, organisations and the media, and when you turn up and walk around. There is no young people there at all.
- You get to be good at discovering ‘young people lenses’ as you’re looking for them all the time.
- You have said the wrong thing, asked the wrong question or missed an opportunity – kicked yourself for it, but often this has been forgiven easily by the young person, especially accompanied by continual presence and an apology.
So there we are – 35 experiences, that, i think, many a detached youthworker might agree with as those that have happened to them, especially if they have made a good go of it, doing it for over 3-4 years in places.
I do hope I didnt put you off your tea on number 29.
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Further resources for detached youthwork are in the menu, and I would be very happy to help you start the adventure of getting out on to the streets to feel the magic and have conversations with young people, meeting them where theyre at. Do get in touch.