This post is part of a short series written by volunteers and workers I have had the privilege of working alongside. I have asked a few of these individuals to write about their experiences of working with young people in their particular context.
This post is written by long-term friend Dave Johnson:
I take it as an extra special privilege to be asked to write a blog post for Jon as, unlike any of the previous guests, I’m no longer involved in any direct youth work. Which, has posed quite a problem for me as I figure out quite what I write about.
I stopped doing any face to face youth work at the end of the summer term in 2008 and from then on in I’ve become “Tech Guy”. I support the technology side of Arun Community Church’s summer playschemes and have made guest appearances at the 11 – 14s youth group when they are low on adult numbers. I’ve had the chance to meet with Jon over a coffee or two and wrestle through some of the youth work issues, though we’ve not always agreed on outcomes.
While I may not be doing any face to face youth work I’ve invested my time in getting involved with Love146 – an organisation that both raises awareness of Child Sex Trafficking and provides on the ground rehabilitation in South East Asia where so many Europeans go on “sex holidays”. Originally I was only asked to provide production for their European launch but the stories and heartbeat of what they do resonated within me and I’m now in the process of forming a task force along with some similarly minded friends in Southampton. What got me most is that we can be blind to the fact it happens here in the UK. A friend of mine, and one of the trustees of Love146, Mark Markiewicz, told the following story at the Europe launch:
He was on Regents Street in London with his 11 year old son and overheard a couple arguing. There was some fairly colourful language so he turned to give them a piece of his mind. Then he saw the look in the woman’s eye and felt prompted and challenged to check if she was ok. She said “No” and moved herself into his protective area. As Mark turned to give the man another piece of his mind, heâ€™d disappeared into the crowds of London. Offering to help the young woman cross the road Mark asked her story. She was new in the UK and was looking for work, sheâ€™d seen one advertised in the Evening Standard and had arranged to meet the employer in a restaurant. When she got there heâ€™d explained there was no job but that if sheâ€™d have sex with him and 4 of his friends, theyâ€™d pay her Â£100 per night.
It’s not a comfortable subject for us as humans, and an even tougher job for youth workers as we try to get our heads round what is happening in our own area and who could possibly be at risk – according to the snappily titled “Child Trafficking in the UK: A Snapshot” report by ECPAT (End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and the Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes) that was published on 18 October 2010 a minimum of 215 young people were trafficked in to the UK between April 2009 and June 2010. What is more worryingly is that 35 of these were under the age of 13 at the time of entry to the country. These figures make no account of a more worrying development of inter-city trafficking here in the UK. This is where vulnerable young people, who are UK nationals, are taken from city to city and routinely sexually abused.
Here in the UK Love146 is a new player and is entering what could be described as an overcrowded field – indeed Jon has previously blogged about charity duplication. While I believe there is room for multiple organisations I equally believe we have to see increased partnerships and sharing of resources. As far as I’m aware this will happen from a UK perspective with the global task force website tailored so that UK members will be made aware of campaigns run by Stop The Traffik and others.
Yet it is the groundbreaking research and education programmes that I believe set Love146 apart from the others. Amongst their staff they count Dr. Gundelina Velazco and Dr. Glenn Miles who are employed to research and consequently improve the quality of care that is given to those who are rescued from trafficking the world over.
Obviously as a charity Love146 need funding and most of this is down to the global task force network, but they are finding favour both with the media and governments the world over and they are given a boost from their celebrity advocates. Amongst them they count American rock band Paramore who have a global following and hold a huge amount of influence, especially amongst the age groups we work with. Over the last 2 years Paramore have donated money from merchandise sales, allowed Love146 branding to be used on promotional items – for example this years Honda Civic tour car in the USA, worn ‘146’ patches on their guitar straps and been brave enough to leave a 30 second clip of talk about Love146 on their “The Final Riot! Live in Chicago” concert DVD.
All of this mobilises the young people we work with – it provides them with the information, what they choose to do with it is, ultimately, up to them. Not a huge amount of people choose to investigate further and very often it is not until the young people we currently work with reach university age that they find their voice and start making a difference.