When youth work doesn't look like much

2 November 2015

People regularly get in touch with us to ask if they can come along to an Urban Hope session; they might be considering a career in youth work, or they might be potential volunteers or funders. They are always welcome: we want members of the community to understand and get involved in what happens here, and, one of the most important aspects of that work is the connections that are made between people who might not otherwise come into contact with each other.

But, it can be a bit nerve-wracking for the team because there is a pressure to ‘show’ exactly what we’re doing, to demonstrate the difference we are making, and the truth is that youth work, done well, often doesn’t look like much. Someone visiting an Urban Hope session for the first time – particularly if it happens to be a quiet drop-in without any special activities laid on – might just see a handful of young people and adults milling about in a hall doing a bit of cooking and playing pool and table tennis.

It’s really only during the team debrief at the end of the evening that we find out what has actually happened in a session. Last week, after one such quiet session, we shared stories and heard that a boy who has been coming to Urban Hope for months, had finally felt safe enough to open up about the recent death of a parent, a youth worker had talked to some young people about their relationship with alcohol, there had been several chats about tensions with parents and at school, and some of the girls had talked with adults about underage sex and pregnancy. That first, open conversation a youth worker has with a young person who is seriously considering becoming pregnant is a potentially life-changing moment, but it doesn’t necessarily look very dramatic or interesting in the here and now.

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