1. Why do you think work with young people is important?
Young people are encountering a period in their lives where they are trying to figure out who they are as individuals and what their place is in the world. This can be a confusing time for adolescents, emotionally, physically, psychologically and physically. They are caught in a period that sits between childhood and adulthood and this prolonged transition phase brings not only some wonderful life experiences but many challenges too.
To have trusted adults (who are not their parents/carers) in the form of youth workers who can enable them to negotiate this tricky time provides young people with support, challenge and positive role models. The mainly informal contexts where young people and youth workers encounter one another facilitates a relationship that is outside formal education and the home environment. A young person can experience and experiment with the identity work they are engaged in whilst knowing that a trusted youth worker won’t be shocked or cast judgement on the choices they face. Youth workers in any context are vital for young people, whether that be in the community or faith groups.My great sadness is that so many youth work roles are now non existent due to statutory services being cut and funding for charities not so readily available. It is our young people who are suffering.
2. What are 2 challenges you face working with young people?
Part of my role is to mentor children in the upper year groups of primary school. The levels of anxiety that these children experience is something that I have not seen in such numbers during my years as a youth worker. Anxiety is not only related to issues in their home lives but children are increasingly worried about wider societal problems. Some of the specific issues that the children talk about in my context are terrorism, the election of Donadl Trump in America, the recent Grenfel fire, deaths of celebrities (especially in 2016) and knife crime.The children are exposed to so much media and will access this themselves online.
The second challenge I face in my work is that once children get to years 5 and 6 they tend to drop out of church. In our context there are many reasons why this happens but it is an area that hasn’t had much research. At St Andrew’s we are hoping to do some research into this area in order to find out more about why there is such a decline in the transition from primary to secondary age group. As a church we will be rethinking the way we engage this particular age group in the life of the church and how we disciple young people who have so many other pulls on their time.
3. What is the last book you read?
I like to read crime/detective novels. The last one I read was ‘I See You’ by Clare Mackintosh. It was a bit creepy but it kept me interested.
4. What is the last TV series you watched?
I have just finished watching the first series of ‘Preacher’ on Amazon and I am working my way through the second series which is being shown at the moment. It is grim in parts so only watch it if you have a strong stomach and don’t mind lots of blood and guts 🙂
5. When are you happiest?
I am happiest when I am lying on a beach with a gin and tonic in my hand and a big beardy man by my side (that’s my husband if you’re wondering). I’ll be doing just that next week 🙂
6. If you could bring one change to the young peoples lives that you work with what would it be?
There are many things that I would want to change in young people’s lives. I think the one I have been thinking about most lately is that young people would have their voice heard in our society. One way of doing this would be to lower the voting age to 16 (as they have done in Scotland). Also, children and young people should be politically engaged in their communities and in their churches. Churches have a responsibility to educate young people in what it means to be a Christian and to be politically engaged and I would love for young people to realise the important contribution they can make in their community and wider society.
Watch this space for more interviews with the wonderful people who contribute to our think tanks and website.