Human Work?

I am a bit of a fantasy and apocalypse dreamer!  Reading, watching, thinking, gaming … it always sounds like fun to ‘avoid the hidden danger’ and admire the beauty in abandoned and overgrown buildings and streets, places that you can only imagine were once filled with the hum and thrum of humans going about their business.  Never did I imagine that that very place would become our reality!  That overgrown building – my house, the abandoned streets – my local town and the hidden danger – Covid-19!  Great game in there somewhere!

But what I didn’t consider in all my dreaming is what Youth Work would look like in this weird abandoned world – why would I?!   But that is what I have been forced to think about while dreaming through lockdown.  And its been interesting.  What do you talk about when nothing has happened?  How do you meet new people in a virtual world?  What ‘rules’ do you have to follow today and how does that change what you were doing yesterday?  What is Youth Work now?  To be honest I have no idea what the answer is … and actually I have come to terms with the fact that I don’t have to have the answers alone or at all.  What I do know is that in all this isolation Youth Workers and Young People are coming together, learning how to use technology and skills to adapt to the changing environment.  Although I still haven’t learnt how to spell … I’m only human!

Being part of the Youth Highland team, quite honestly, has changed my life!  I have learned what Youth Work is, how to get the best out of the young people I work with, be creative and imaginative and most importantly found people who are ‘my people’.  Youth Work is about being human, and that is complex!  Its about caring, empathising, challenging, aspiring and dreaming.  It is a privileged job, you are a player in someone’s life, someone who trusts you and needs you to be on their side.  You are non-judgmental and gentle.  You show understanding, even when you don’t understand!  And you are not always right – in fact you are rarely right!  You are an enabler.  It’s a big responsibility.  So because Youth Work is ‘human work’ being thrown into this virtual world is strange!

Being a head and set of shoulders in a small box on a screen with a lot of other small boxes full of heads and shoulders is the strangest way to do Youth Work.  All that body language that we are losing, eye contact, the ability to move around a space, be loud, talk at the same time, laugh and pick up on those small signs from young people that they might need a ‘bit of a chat’ is lost here … or is it?  

There are 3 principles of Youth Work, The BIG 3 as they are known at Youth Highland.  1 – Voluntary Participation.  2 -Start where the young person is and 3 – Learn together.  They have not changed, and don’t need to change.  The BIG 3 are just as relevant during lockdown as they were before and will be after.  This is where Youth Work comes into its own.  Youth Workers CAN change, they CAN adapt, CAN experiment with new ways of working and new technology because we are human.  Youth Work has been through many changes in its history why stop now?  This is the perfect time for Youth Workers and Young people to celebrate in their humanity and change AGAIN and AGAIN and AGAIN ….

We can re-learn to see the wee look in someone’s eye during a group video call that says ‘PM me after pls’, forget the etiquette of video calls that says ‘mute yourself when your not talking’ and talk over each other, joke and laugh at peoples jokes, talk to someone while your on a walk (obviously adhering to the daily rules!) and say someone’s name when you are talking to them instead of looking at them for example. 

Youth Work doesn’t have to change and Youth Workers CAN change, so during isolation cry, dream, imagine, aspire and hope.  We are all human and all do human work.