I had my first child in the middle of my degree course, I guess you could say he was born into youthwork. My second son was almost ready to hatch at my graduation so he’d heard the lectures and been present as my heart rushed and raced towards deadlines and dissertation. They sat in the youthclub, had no need for toys as they had non-stop entertainers during youth meetings and bible studies and heard the latest tunes rather than lullabies. It seemed forever away to consider that one day these little ones would be under my care as a youthworker.
I heard the jokes about how, with my youthworker husband, we were set up to sail through the teenage years, I knew too much about development to believe that. As they grew up they changed to be the advisors on a great Youtube clip or allowing me to play Fortnite for my undefeated title with a Victory Royale! Joined by two younger sisters, a tweenager and a toddler I don’t need to read too many books on growing pains as I live with it at some stage or another.
I love being a mum, most times I love being a youthworker but the balance, the challenges, the trials of knowing too much, ethical dilemmas and theories into practice make for some interesting thinking. As a lecturer, I get to share my experiences, often those based at home, with other youthworkers. So often I have seen that youthwork posts are expected to be filled by a certain young, cool, extrovert stereotype and people have said you can’t be a youthworker all your life. Yet I have seen some amazing third age youthworkers, I see some brilliant young youthworkers, I see experience adding and creating different relationships and inexperience creating innovation and daring within professional boundaries.
As with all things, we are unique, we bring who we are to walk alongside young people. No matter what stage we are at in life I think Donovan’s quote holds they key. So I accept the challenge of being a youthworker mum….. most of the time.
Migration, Daily Mail and Missing the Point
Beyond the sensationalised images of adults and aggression are some shocking statistics that are the true story. Last year alone 407 children and young people were recognised, caught, registered, however you would like to say, as migrants seeking safety and support. The highest number of lone children, not from war or conflict but from families dreaming of something more.
The Northern village is typical, it is true, there is no work, there is a lack of hope, there is despair and there are families who just want more for their children and give money they don’t have, to people they don’t know in the search of a dream. Most of these children won’t be thugs, thieves or delinquents but very well may end up that way because of the systems in place. Disappearing into anonymity, without a place to settle and belong to, fleeing the authorities they hoped would help them. These children know that their parents have paid thousands that they don’t have because the expectation is they will earn some money and support the family in the future. They can’t return because they know their families have less than nothing. They can’t stay because they are not at risk, until they have to put themselves at risk through illegal links and relationships.
Albania is a country with outstanding beauty, most people are friendly, hospitable, open their homes and welcome you. The number of meals we have shared where as guests we are the only ones eating because the families can’t afford to serve us and eat as well. As you sit realising this sacrifice, the impossible challenge of thanking and respecting their kindness but eating their suffering and trying to find ways of sharing whilst honouring. Having worked with Albanian children and young people their dreams are so often crushed by the corruption but not by their own abilities. They have pride in their wonderful country but no hope. They have skills for their wonderful country but no opportunities. They have belonging to their wonderful country but no future. This is the truth behind the images.
The challenge doesn’t have a simple solution, as with most immigration issues. But the answer most definitely isn’t labelling with violent, drug addicted, thugs. Challenging corrupt systems, supporting those who have found their way here and understanding the search for a dream should not end in a nightmare.