Saturday, December 11, 2010

Guest Blog: Why I Chose to Work With Young People

Kirsty back in 2006
I had the honor of meeting today's guest blogger, Kirsty Armstrong, when she came on a missions trip with Youth For Christ from the UK over here to Canada.  We have kept in touch over the years and she recently informed me that she had graduated from University of Ulster where she graduated with a degree in Community Youth Work.  It makes me so proud to see the young people I have worked with using their lives to help others.  I asked her to share why she chose this path for her life.  Here is her answer.  Enjoy.

Why I chose to work with young people..

There wasn't a particular moment in my life where I can remember stopping and knowing I wanted to be a youth worker. I always enjoyed helping out at youth club and hanging out with young people on summer teams with Youth for Christ. I began to think about making a career out of it. I always thought youth work would be exciting, challenging and rewarding and it has not been anything but.

I studied Community Youth Work at the University of Ulster, Jordanstown. My class was small and I really enjoyed the three years that I studied there. My classmates and I shared experiences, learned from each other and all came out of the course with different opinions and beliefs that we originally went in with.

The course was very practical with every class being interactive and informal. The theory that I studied in class has helped me to understand how and why young people may think. I feel it has better equipped me to helping young people in my community.

Previous to going to university, I had no idea what area of youth work I wanted to pursue but after a placement I staretd to feel passionate working with young people who offend.

Society often labels young people as 'young offenders'. Many people have perceptions of young people to be trouble makers and criminals. Can you imagne how difficult it can be to live in a community that is quick to oppress and exclude based upon your age, who you hang around with or who your family is?

Many of the young people I have worked with continue offending as they feel it is what people 'expect' of them. Other young people have been raised in a way that they do not know any different than stealing to get what they want, using violence to stand up for what they believe in and abusing substances as there is nothing else for them to do.

There is nearly always an underlying issue that contributes to why a young person gets involved in crime. One particular young person I worked with was residing in a young offenders institute for repeatedly stealing. He was a known drug user and admitted that he steals money in order to fund his drug use. Together we worked through ways in which he could cut down his cannabis use. If he could cut down/stop using cannabis then he wouldn't have to steal anymore. After working with this young person, I felt so rewarded that I may have helped him even a little bit. I want to help make a difference in the lives of young people who feel excluded by their community.

I hope I have answered the question why i chose to work with young people. I feel that young people are oppressed in our society and a lot of the deviant behavior that is carried out is often a cry for help. Young people have so much potential and with people who are there to assist them in their social and personal development; to stand up for them; to encourage and believe in them, they can achieve anything.

Kirsty Armstrong
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