Youth Work in a Global Sphere Part 1

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Experiences working with young people in multiple countries. Contexts and observations of what works

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Part 1: A glimpse into youth work experiences in different countries

As an American university student living in the UK, my passion and desire to effect youth in a greater way had intensified. Throughout my studies, I had become fascinated by the UK’s relatively large youth sector. As a young teen, I knew I wanted to continue exploring how I could further understand and support them. I was impacted by their attitudes, curious about their behaviors, struck by their authentic spontaneity, and agile ability to move from one place to another, energetically and emotionally, as would leapfrog or a performer. Yet, their performances were always unrehearsed, and I was in full anticipation to become that form of freedom.

One of my immediate observations after my first youth work experience working on an Aboriginal farm in Queensland, Australia with a mix of children and teens was the following: Young people are who they are, raw and intrinsically unapologetic in their humour and relentless in their desire to meet their objectives.

My experiences with Roma Gypsy youth from Eastern Slovakia, taught me that loving kindness and building a trusting relationship from the start would ultimately unfold into an honest bond that leads to mutual understanding regardless of language. Language is not the essence of humanity anyway; authentic “knowing” is.

The dualistic subtlety in giving respect and unconditional attention prematurely without getting to know them before receiving the same or focusing on what I may deserve as a foreigner helped me to realize that one will almost always receive what they give. For we do not deserve anything: we are, as the Roma youth taught me so well whilst running free through the hilly Slovak countryside, skipping rocks in the brook, picking flowers without talking about them, singing to the banjo guitar, dancing to traditional folk music, watching giant sparkles of stars appear in the evening silence.

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This experience illustrates, for me, that appealing to and connecting with youth is not always about telling, or making something known. It is not always about communicating every last thought or reading up on their culture before making real live encounters. It is about doing and showing in the presence of the unknown, in the space of mutuality, respective difference, vulnerability, and common ground even if that has not been articulated through conversation. Exchange sometimes loses its prime because it is already taking place through the sharing of experience in being, and which accelerates learning in the form of togetherness from one another simultaneously.

Ever since, I was intrigued by the behaviors/strategies, in which diverse youth communities portray and how I was able to craftily do something with it in order to change them for the better creating and expanding on lasting impact. It sounded promising because I loved this fulfilling process, and most of all I was enjoying it, despite the inherent challenges that come with making a difference to any group outside of one’s own community. Realizing that they had the power to change me too acted as my epiphany towards choosing to continue my work supporting youth from all different walks of life in the professional space.

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 After volunteering during my teenage years, I later worked in various non-profits and youth clubs. During my holidays, I would travel back to my hometown, New York City, and work as a teacher or summer camp counselor with youth from mostly urban environments from a range of different upbringings and ethnic backgrounds.

Despite being fortunate enough to be provided with the opportunities to interact with communities across a broad spectrum of cultures, I didn’t realize until I became more serious about committing to it. I had to allow myself to tap into certain skills that would serve me and my progress working effectively with all youth, privileged or not.

Please note the views, opinions and ideas that have been shared is solely from me and is no way linked with youthworknews.com

By: Lindsey Sherwin

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