Below is a Case Study, written by one of our Youth Workers involved in Projects4Change, demonstrating how much Youth Work means to them and the positive, long-lasting influence it can have on people’s lives:
Josh (16 yrs) was our first Change Maker Volunteer, his ideas helped us to create the programme. Josh’s mother was worried about him, he had spent his school life in trouble, he was bullied at 13 for being overweight and was then diagnosed with ADHD and dyslexia.
Now aged 16 he was trying really hard to make a change in his life, however he couldn’t persuade the teachers to give him a fair hearing, he still had trouble concentrating and struggled to complete work. The messages he got from school were, “you’re not going anywhere in life”.
He was worried, he came to me and said, “I just want to help people, what can I do with my life?” His mum said he would sit with an elderly lady regularly because she was lonely, he told me he didn’t blame the kids who bullied him, as they didn’t know the harm they did and anyway they’re alright, he explained that he had made friends with them since.
To me Josh seemed a very resilient, caring and resourceful lad but all he was hearing were negative comments about what he wasn’t and what he couldn’t do. I advised Josh to take a level 2 childcare course and explained how you can make a career out of helping people. I told him that volunteering can help towards creating a CV and getting into employment and maybe also help with university applications. He is going to do NCS this year and see if he likes a youth work setting, he is keen to pursue working with others, maybe he is a future youth worker in the making.
Here, Kerris Gibson our Chair reflects on the positive impact a youth worker had on the life of her brother.
The Value of Youth Work
“When my brother Michael was two years old, he was diagnosed with severe autism. His communication was impaired and doctors told us he would never be able to talk. He was eight years old before he made eye contact with us. But the whole family were so happy when he did, and we believe it was youth projects that had such a positive impact on his life.
None of us had an understanding of autism, so it was quite a confusing and helpless time for all of us. All we wanted was for him to be happy. My other brother and I wanted to play with Michael, but he didn’t want to play with us. My parents wanted to hug him, but he didn’t want to be hugged. He wanted his own personal space, on his terms.
When Michael was about six years old, someone suggested a Play Schemes group to my Mam. It would be a place for him to go and play with other children with similar disabilities. It would be managed by people who had an understanding of these disabilities, and there would be no pressure for him to join in in anything he didn’t want to.
My Grandma remembers taking him to the Play Schemes. Michael would keep to the outskirts of the group, on his own, his head down. But he had a lot of energy; he was always climbing something. Then there was a young girl, sixteen years old, who he let into his world.
She didn’t try to make him be like anyone else. They ran around together and bounced on trampolines, she had the energy to keep up with him and it was the beginning of what turned out to be a wonderful and lifelong friendship. My family were amazed, they had never seen him being so engaging with another person.
In small but gradual ways, Michael opened up more and more as the years went on. He’s grown up to be a very happy, kind and engaging young man. Words can’t describe how proud we are of him. His speech has improved dramatically and we see his confidence growing every week. Most of this is down to him, he is by nature a loving person and tries very hard, he enjoys making new friends. But a lot of it is down to that sixteen-year-old girl who found him through a youth project; her warm personality and relentless positivity. She is part of our family.”