The Passion of a Youth Worker
Jimmy is a local legend and a personal inspiration. His outlook and extensive knowledge on the mysterious thing we call 'life' and his wisdom of all the odd little things lifecontains needs to be shared. I was chatting to him recently about some of the struggles of some of the young soldiers he works with and inspires, and he duly obliged to write us a blog. Thanks Jimmy, keep changing lives man, you're a hero and saviour to a lot of people.
Why a Youth Worker?
After 19 years working in a factory, redundancy, woohoo. I hope never to go there again and to there I hope I never will. “Sold my soul to the store” comes to mind
So in the last few years of that job, I started studying ‘Youth and Community Work’, one evening a week for two years. The reason: to support me with my sea scout leading, I have been a scout leader for 40 years (they gave me a medal that sez so). When doing this diploma, light bulbs were going off in my head; the things the tutors were talking about, the class debates, the theories and models of youth work fitted into the way my scouting head worked. I loved every class, ‘twas deadly stuff. That said, I often found it difficult to take it all in, that’s until a tutor said to me that most of your fellow students need to learn the theories and put them into practice but you are putting your practice into the theories. Anyway I completed the course, got my diploma and later got a part-time job as a ‘youth worker’ running a Youth Café, been there seven years to date.
To quickly explain a Youth Café, It’s a non-judgemental place where young people can go to ‘hang out’ and chat, have tea and toast, play a game of pool. Youth workers will be there for all, but especially for young people who may be marginalized for one reason or another. And I am there for them. Youth work to me it is a passion; it’s not about the ‘job’ as it seems to be for some other youth workers I have met. It’s difficult to switch off, whether in the Café, or on the streets or just walking along the quay. I’ll stop and talk with anyone who might need that little bit of help, or just to natter.
Maybe I can take you on one youth workers journey? At three o clock one afternoon an eighteen year old young man arrived into the youth café as he done most days, to me he didn’t look the best, “something up there” I thought. You see he hadn’t made eye contact, he hadn’t said Hi, he just got himself a cuppa and sat on the couch in his own thoughts. So I grabbed a cuppa for myself and dropped in beside him. Asked ‘How’s it going Bill how are you today’ ‘Ah arrit, not a bother’ was the reply. To the reader that might seem a reasonable teenager reply, but in this case ‘Full Eye Contact’ was made to me. This lad is screaming inside I thought, have to get talking to him. I invited him to chat, actually I stated ‘let’s go for a chat now’. For a bit of privacy we both adjourned to the smoking area of a pub, buying a couple of coffees on the way through. With a fresh pack of ciggies and coffee the scene was set to talk. I believed he needed to talk but didn’t know how to start. So I asked him to tell me about his day, from when he first got outa bed, to now. He told me hadn’t slept last night, he told me he had brought a rope to the forest to hang himself, but he broke down and cried in the woods, said he’d been around all day waiting for the cafe to open and now we are here. I let that sit for a minute or so. As nothing more was said from Bill, I paraphrase back what he had told me. I asked him directly did he want to kill himself this morning; he said he did. I asked him how was he going to do it, with a rope was the reply. I reassured him that I am here to help you through this and will get support for you. I believed that Bill had not planned his actions out fully, that his inner heart seeking help and that this mornings action was impulse, we chatted back and forth at length. I asked Bill if he would mind if I contacted a professional in the suicide game to help him. ‘You want me to talk to a fookin shrink, I’m not mad ye know’. I said ‘not a shrink but a councillor’ I kinda had to convince him to trust me, which he did in the end. In Bills company a phone call was made to my buddy councillor and a chat arranged for that evening. Once he told me where the rope was.(which I removed that evening) we spent another hour or so just shooting the breeze, as he smoked the rest of my ciggies I asked him was he going to kill himself today, he said he was not. We returned to the Café for the evening where he got to meet the councillor.This all happened over a 5 hour period, I should have knocked off the job two hours earlier but hey, how could you? Bill is still walking around, getting married I hear. A few weeks ago I was with non-work related friends, when Bill stopped and shook my hand saying ‘Thanks a lot Jim’, my friends will never know and probably never will understand. ‘Why a Youth Worker’. Ye see, Bill shook my hand as have several others. I think I might have saved one.
If you are in a bad state of affairs and cannot contact Jimmy or maybe you're too old for a local youth centre while you're struggling to find a reason to live, there are so many options and I promise no matter how sepcific you're own individual case seems, there are people to help. If life is too much right now and you need an intervention, please ring Samaritans. and just know that, and I know it sounds very cliché, but there is a reason to keep on going because you will appreciate the bright days (they will come) much more than somebody that has never been through the dark.