Archives For Guest Posts

Posts written by guest authors on youth work related themes

Football supporters. They’ve all got their favourite chants, haven’t they? Recently on Twitter a Norwich City fan was digging out Chelsea fans saying they didn’t have an anthem of sorts that resonated with the club and specifically cited ‘Chelsea, Chelsea, Chelsea, Chelsea, Chelsea, Chelsea!’ as repetitive dross that ‘sums up’ their support.

Chelsea fans beg to differ.

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Guest Post: Naomi Stanton

12 October 2011 — 7 Comments

This guest post is part of a series by youth work volunteers and practitioners writing about their experiences of working with young people in their particular context. Naomi Stanton has been doing her PhD research on the Sunday Schools movement from the eighteen hundreds to the twentieth century and has found some interesting parallels for youth ministry today which she explores below.

Naomi Stanton

I had the pleasure of meeting Jon when he gave an enjoyable and well-informed presentation at the Youth and Policy conference on ‘Young People and Faith’ in Leeds earlier this year. My background is youth work and throughout my career as a practitioner I always kept one foot in the academic side of things through writing and studying, in an attempt to bridge the theory-practice gap a little. After spending several years working in the statutory sector I realised that the gap was in fact widening as target-driven, increasingly formal policy seemed to be drowning, more and more, the ‘real’ theory of youth work. Since then, I worked for the voluntary sector for a while before studying full-time for my PhD and recently coming to work as a lecturer for YMCA George Williams College in London. My current practice is as a volunteer for my local church, and I increasingly wonder if youth work (in its true form) is incompatible with professionalisation, and is perhaps returning to its roots as a faith-motivated, philanthropic venture (or at least a locally and voluntarily organised one). In my post below I outline some of the findings of my PhD research which looks at the decline of the Sunday School movement and the emergence of Christian youth work.

When the Sunday School pioneer, Robert Raikes saw a need in his community in the late eighteenth century, his response provoked a 200 year movement, the remnants of which still exist today. Early Sunday Schools were an outreach movement prompted by the numbers of young people working six days per week but lacking in basic educational skills; a need that could be met by Christian service. By the early twentieth century, Sunday Schools had reached their peak, with over 75% of children and young people in England and Wales on their registers. Rather than continuing as a needs-led movement however, they had become a highly structured organisation, centralised and attached to local churches and unions, with their original purpose made redundant by the emergence and growth of mainstream education. They faced rapid decline in the mid-twentieth century, as a rigid institution amidst societal change. My research considers some of the factors in their decline, as well as tracing the presence of these issues in church-sponsored youth work in the present day.
Through archival research into the records of the national and local Sunday School Unions, it is clear that these were rigidly structured organisations not allowing much freedom to individual Sunday Schools to define their work at local level or even choose their own materials. Publications around Sunday Schooling in the twentieth century call on teachers to take training courses to drastically improve their work. These teachers were subject to criticism both from the Unions and their churches, who suggest Sunday Schools were failing because the young people did not become adult members at church. The move to a family church model, moving Sunday Schools from the afternoon to the morning, to align them more closely with church services, marked the loss of children and young people from non-church families who had previously made up the majority of attendees.

For the contemporary study, young people from across the Christian denominations have been interviewed about their current experiences of organised Christianity. Transition to adult church remains an issue, and youth workers, in an echo from the historical study, often face church criticism for this. Tensions emerge over whether the Christian youth worker’s role is to serve community or church needs. Young people’s sense of of choice, voice, and community are key to their engagement with Christian activities. The study challenges the assumption that young people engage with religion as consumers, by emphasising the significance of volunteering to the young people involved in the research. Implications for practice include allowing for young people to belong, to question, and to participate. This happens in youth work settings but often not in the young people’s experiences of church where they sense a division between their peer groups and church adults, often their only significant adult relationship being with the youth worker.

Feel free to contact me via n.stanton@ymca.ac.uk if you would like to know about more about the research, and/or you can access recent presentations on my contemporary study at the following links:

What do you think? Got any questions for Naomi? Leave a comment below!

Over the years I have been doing youth work, I have had the privilege of connecting with a many other workers doing a wide variety of excellent things! 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 Emily Hewson; a Christian who is also a youth worker and increasingly finding it difficult to pinhole exactly what her job title ought to be, as she increasingly works outside and inside the church context. She has been a youth worker for ten years, mostly in Local Authority settings and is now currently setting up a new youth project with two other youth workers, as they respond to the disproportionate cuts to youth provision facing young people in Stockport. She enjoys initiating ideas and encouraging others to move forward.

Standing on the Bridge with arms wide open

So what is the bridge? We often think of bridging the gap between ‘rich & poor’, ‘working & non-working’ but what about bridging the gap between sacred and secular?  This is the place where I see myself. In fact Debra Green (Redeeming Our Communities) said to me one Sunday morning recently, “You’re strategic in that with your experience, you bridge the gap”.

That experience is 10 years of youth work in a variety of settings, but mostly in Local Authorities.  I have worked for 3 different local authorities in Greater Manchester, and when I started, I worked for a small voluntary sector project which was commissioned to do some work for Manchester City Council. Over the years I applied for jobs with churches and was unsuccessful, but doors opened for me to pursue youth work in a local authority setting. From this experience, I saw how I was often in a place where church youth work didn’t always reach those young people, and that somehow I was there bridging the gap, being a light in some really dark places.

Here’s a thought: if we as Christian youth workers spend all our time within the church, who is going to reach those young people who are very far removed from the church context? Those who don’t have any Christian friends to bring them to church, who maybe don’t know what all the fuss is about, and generally steer clear of school so miss out on Christian schools work as well? There is a need some youth workers to be outreach-minded.

I know that within the youth work community a few of us watched the BBC’s “Poor Kids” documentary, and saw the abject poverty some children and young people are born into and forced to endure.  Many of the communities I have worked in over the last ten years have fallen within the bottom 15% on the Index of Deprivation. Within the toughest, most disadvantaged areas, there aren’t always churches that can afford full-time youth workers, or even Christian youth projects with youth workers reaching these young people. Maybe we need to broaden our horizons and learn to work more in partnership with secular youth projects to provide safe places and good role models. Maybe then through “ordinary” youth provision the way we conduct ourselves and the way we behave, may rub off on people and shine that light in a different way.

Twitter has allowed us bridge these two worlds in a seamless fashion, connecting people up who we can see are doing similar things, but often in two different worlds. It’s challenging to change the way we’ve always worked before and work together, but I think there is room for it to happen…

 

You can connect with Emily on Twitter: @emilyhewson

Guest Post: Ben Young

18 February 2011 — Leave a comment

This post is part of a short series written by former young people I have had the privilege of working with. Having been involved in youth work for well over 10 years, many of my old youth groups have gone on to do amazing and exciting things. Some, to my immense pride, have also gone on to work with young people themselves. 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 my current trainee and “Gapper” Ben Young who is on a placement with Arun Community Church supported by The Rank Foundation and studying for a Level 3 Diploma in Informal Education at YMCA George Williams College. Ben’s doing a great job and I’ve asked him to write about his work:

Ben Young

So the journey begins…
This first month has been a roller coaster ride for me, moving up from being a youth in the Church to being a youth leader has been such a good transition and I feel that I have contended well with the difficulties within the change. I’m so excited to see what this year has in store for me while working with these brilliant young people. In my placement, I am helping at a number of different clubs and activities each week. Here are just a few of them:

LAUNCH PAD
Launch pad is a breakfast club run from 7.30am for one hour everyday no matter the weather. It’s for children whose parents can’t supply their breakfast or go to work early mornings and don’t have time to prepare breakfast. We give them a healthy breakfast and walk them to school so they are ready for the day.

REPLAY
Replay is a club run every Tuesday with different activities each week such as ‘cook and eat’ or free ‘soft play’, we supply toast too so the youth can have a healthy snack.

Spurgeons LA-UK CREW
The Crew takes young people from deprived areas and takes them out of their home environment for trips out on walks, activities or even just hot chocolate. It gives the young people the chance to relax and have some fun and have someone to talk to, just having the good adult influence around them and someone to have a chat can show them that they aren’t alone and can help with their self esteem and confidence as well as meeting with other youth in similar conditions and making friends, it’s absolutely brilliant.

Other clubs I help at include Kickstart, an after school club with a Christian theme, TNT which is a Thursday night youth club for ages 11-14, and Ignite which teaches youth from ACC about the bible in a friendly environment. I help run these clubs by doing registers, log sheets and preparing activities. I have also been involved in a number of meetings, getting to know other people in the area and understanding more about youth work. So far it is great!

Guest Post: Dave Johnson

10 January 2011 — 5 Comments

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, he’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, she’d seen one advertised in the Evening Standard and had arranged to meet the employer in a restaurant. When she got there he’d explained there was no job but that if she’d have sex with him and 4 of his friends, they’d pay her £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.

Website: www.thedavejohnson.net
Twitter: @davejohnsonUK

This post is part of a short series written by volunteers and workers I have had the privilege of working alongside in a variety of settings. 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 Walter Otton:

A Grand in my Hand.

It’s a ten minute drive south from Paphos airport to Mandria, and a ten minute walk from my villa to the village where the restaurant is that shows the football. The heat is intense, been as high as 42 Celsius this week, you walk out the door leaving the air con behind and embrace what feels like hot coals on your face, arms and torso. As you walk down the street, only five years old these houses, roads and pavements – built on Biblical dust where the apostle Paul walked on barren land by the beautiful Mediterranean Sea – you pass a horde of identical villas with identical swimming pools – the touches of individuality only apparent with the variety of plants and flowers that adorn the front gardens – all of them desperate for water as the locals tell us this is the hottest August for a century. After the row of villas, you hit a road that weaves between fields and trees up to the village. Lemon trees; olive trees; pomegranate trees; peach (or nectarine) trees decorate the journey. In the fields are marrows; squash; onions – on one occasion when I’m walking the route, a van pulls alongside the road and a man and a lady step out the back of the vehicle and stare and study me for a moment before making their way to the fields to work – poverty in motion.

I’m told that many of the locals in their simple houses with their peaceful way of life are perplexed at the gradual invasion. There aren’t many tourists here really, its mostly retired Brits scattered around and property developers looking for expansion, and some workers such as Brian, our neighbour in the villa next door, a landscape gardener from Kennington who misses going to watch Millwall. Coral beach is a forty minute drive away, and Ayia Napa even further – a different world on the same island. Younger people, with fire in their bellies, are opposed to the transformation of their small community, the older generation merely startled. Twenty years ago they’d never seen an aeroplane, now several a day roar overhead. The middle aged accept the change and welcome the money, jobs and prospects that the small boom is producing. Within the last three years, three restaurants have sprouted up plus a convenience store that is open fourteen hours a day and yes, you’ve guessed it – with restaurants come bars and with bars come television and with television comes the brand that is stronger than ever: the English Premier League.

So I sit down. I order a beer. The football is on. And I start thanking my Daddy God. I thank Dad for the fifteen young people that joined the flock at Soul Survivor the week before. I thank Dad for all the children and young people on my case load that are closer to Jesus than they were a year ago. I thank Dad for my wife and kids. And above all, I thank Dad for the man who slammed a grand in my hand and said that the one thousand pounds in my palm was for a holiday. “Go away”, he said: “you need a break” – so here I am feeling soothed in a quiet restaurant in a quiet village in roasting hot Cyprus. I’ve recuperated.

Amen.

Bio: Walter has been a children’s and youth worker since he was seventeen. He has written articles for football fanzines for 20 seasons, specifically for CFCUK since 2003 which is published monthly and sells up to 3000 copies per issue. On a career break in 2005, Walter sat at a computer in Queensland, Australia and in six weeks wrote Never Eat Shredded Wheat which you can find out about / order for a tenner (including P&P). John King (The Football Factory) loved it.

Website: www.walterotton.co.uk
Twitter: @walterotton

Guest Post: Rosie Mumford

10 November 2010 — 1 Comment

This post is part of a short series written by former young people I have had the privilege of working with. Having been involved in youth work for well over 10 years, many of my old youth groups have gone on to do amazing and exciting things. Some, to my immense pride, have also gone on to work with young people themselves. 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 Rosie Mumford:

I am currently studying youth and community work at Newport University. I have known Jon since he was my youth worker almost 10 years ago. I worked as part of his team for a few years in a voluntary role and fell in love with working with youth. Even though I was young myself, Jon allowed me to get involved and be a member of the youth team.

Until this year I have only ever been involved in Christian youth work in a voluntary role, and to my surprise it can be quite different in so many ways than working for the statutory sector. In September I got a job with Newport Youth Service, working in a youth club two nights a week. This is a great group and we do some fun activities with them although I sometimes feel that because we have to hit a certain amount of contacts in one session and involve certain things in our activities, the pure essence of youth work is lost. We have the best interests of the young people at heart and are working with them to gain ASDAN accreditations, but is this truly meeting the young people’s needs? It is harder to build worthwhile relationships when the young people know that they are there for a reason and if they don’t complete the work they can no longer come to club.

If a situation occurs in my youth club and we need to address it with the group, it is not possible to do so the next week, instead we have to write it into the programme for a future session. I miss the fluidity of youth work in the voluntary sector where, if something needs doing, it can be done with a snap of the fingers. There the work is often lead by what the young people want, and more importantly, what they need at the time. I’d love to go back to the days where youth work wasn’t so target driven but I think it will take a while for that to happen (if it ever does). At the moment being able to prove you have met your targets is the only reason that some people will be in the job as of April.

With the large cuts that have come and are to come in the service it will be up to the voluntary sector to pick up the slack. This if I’m honest scares me a little. There are some amazing projects and even better workers in the voluntary sector, but what worries me are the youth clubs that don’t have them. The clubs that are run purely by volunteers who have had no training, I worry for them and the young people. I believe that a minimum training needs to be put in place to work with young people in a safe environment.

When I started my university placement I was working with a group of volunteers in two of the hardest areas of the city and to my shock some of the workers hadn’t been CRB checked, we didn’t have a first aider, accident book or even any plasters! You could argue that we live in an over safety conscious society, but when a young person cut their arm while at the club it didn’t seem so trivial anymore. This is exactly what worries me about David Cameron’s Big Society; we are trusting the nation with what I deem to be one of the most important job roles in society. Would you let someone off the streets teach your children in school?

However even though there is a lot to be learnt from the statutory sector, I think that it would be great if we could go back to the way youth work was before it all got so serious. Youth workers should spend their time having fun with young people; building relationships, encouraging them, and building them up as people, instead of creating qualifications that don’t mean much and are unlikely to help the young person.

Rosie Mumford

Twitter: @rosiemumford

This post is part of a short series written by former young people I have had the privilege of working with. Having been involved in youth work for well over 10 years, many of my old youth groups have gone on to do amazing and exciting things. Some, to my immense pride, have also gone on to work with young people themselves. 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 Rich Lush:

I was honoured when Jon asked me if I could write a guest blog for him. I’ve known Jon my entire life, and it’s been a privilege to work with him and learn from him from both his mistakes and his successes. I’ve been blessed to have fantastic opportunities in both Christian and secular youth and kids work. As a result, I now find myself in the USA, working for The Abbey Church in Azle, Texas, about half an hour from Fort Worth and an hour and a half from Dallas.

My Journey to the States started through a Facebook post. I put a status saying “where next Lord?” and the Pastor here answered “I know where, let’s talk.” So we did and now I find myself in a new setting, a new country and new culture. I arrived in June and am being employed as Children’s Pastor, Assistant Youth Pastor and about a hundred and one other things that seem to always fall on the lap of any youth or children’s pastor who ends up working for the church.

It’s funny because often when we compare the United States and England, (via a holiday or on TV), there are some obvious cultural differences, but we generally think that we’re not that different as nations. What we can forget with the USA is that each state comes with its own culture, often extremely different from another.

Some examples are things like the type of vegetables available: the idea of a sweet potato loaded with marshmallows as part of a main meal is wierd! And I’ve noticed an obsession that many people have with working out. Boys and girls will start weight training at 12 or 13 and take protein shakes, which just seems alien from an English point of view. Another obvious example is the attitude to guns, but that’s a massive topic in itself…

Within the culture of “church” it is very common for people to go to church on a Sunday and wear their Sunday “best” because that is what is expected of them. Often there is no real connection to faith apart from it being what they are meant to do. As well as this, these churches often preach a “there-is-grace-but-only-if-you-do-it-the-way-we-say” theology which I believe is completely missing the point.

As a church we’re attempting to stand against these things and bring an authentic reality of God to people. Some people love us for this and other churches wonder what we’re about; why people drink alcohol publicly and don’t wear suits to on a Sunday. When we have a meeting where the preach gets shelved because the Spirit of God is doing other things, we find some even within our church struggle because of the apparent chaos. As leaders, we love it.

For my role as children’s pastor, we want to continue this authenticity. We’re not looking to have children who can list off the books of the Bible and repeat the history of the Bible. All of this can be good, but we’re looking to teach them how to have an authentic relationship with God. We don’t want to be teaching them biblical stories that they take in like a history lesson. The desire for us here is to teach them something real. Something we can all be guilty of is forgetting that God speaks to children too. We nurture environments of fun, and this is extremely important, but we lower the content of welcoming the spirit and drawing the kids to God, attempting to pack our program and never having a moment to stop. I’m not saying we need to be having mini revivals in our children’s meetings every week, or that we can’t play games and must sit for hours seeking God in order to teach them. What we’re seeking here is to help them grow in relationship.

Most weeks, we will just lay down for about 3 or 4 minutes after the teaching and say “Listen to God, what does he want to say to you today? Maybe he wants to tell you something for someone else?” Sometimes this can lead into a great time of sharing! Last week we had a time of the children describing seeing Heaven and its golden streets and blinding lights and amazing presence. And the thing is, whether it is a greater concept of the teaching deepening in their hearts, or God genuinely revealing himself in an amazing way, they’re catching a glimpse of who God really is. Not the big old man in the sky, but a being that wants genuine experience with His children, old and young.

I’ll close with this, our vision for the children’s work.

“The desire is to have a complete picture of God. To see kids and young people radically on fire with a deep heart knowledge of the grace and love that the Father has for them. That each group would not be a standalone feature, but would be progressive, supporting the children/youth in their ongoing growth and relationship with God whilst allowing them room to find their destiny, not something false or forced. The heart cry is that the children would lead the way in church, that a faith would be risen within them that they are more than conquerors ([youversion]Romans 8:37[/youversion]) that they have a role to play in church life that is bigger than being quiet and listening. That they would be envisioned with the great commission and heart cry of God, that people may not look down on them but help nurture their gifting and character and even learn from them ([youversion]1 Timothy 4:12[/youversion]).”

Rich Lush
Kid’s Pastor

rich@theabbeychurch.com
www.theabbeychurch.com
www.richlush.com

This is the first ever guest post on this blog, and is also the first in a short series written by former young people I have had the privilege of working with. Having been involved in youth work for well over 10 years, many of my old youth groups have gone on to do amazing and exciting things. Some, to my immense pride, have also gone on to work with young people themselves. 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 Shaun Parker:

Over the last 10 years I’ve worked with Jon in many ways, in fact my first experience of Jon was when I volunteered at a playscheme when I was 14! 10 years on I’ve been really blessed to have worked alongside him. Over the years I’ve been involved in playschemes, church groups, large events like Spring Harvest, young carers support groups, and the most recent was an internship with Arun Community Church which was in partnership with The Rank Foundation.

I write this blog post while siting in a coffee shop in Bogota, Colombia. I have the backdrop of a huge and beautiful Church building behind me while prostitutes (adults and children), pimps, transexuals and drug dealers go about their business – not your normal combination!

After my internship with Arun Community Church I was invited to join this team in Bogota to plant a new Church which has a focus on the community. While this isn’t a new concept for most of us from the West, it is a big deal for people here in Latin America. So our mission is to be a non-religious, non-legalistic expression of Jesus Christ throughout Colombia and Latin America; a church of creativity, reflecting our Creator, a Church of action bringing the kingdom of God into every area of society, and to see the rule and reign of Jesus break out in peopleʼs lives! The name of our church plant is called ‘Comunidad Mosaic’ or ‘Mosaic Community’ in English. Just as a mosaic is made of broken, unique, individual pieces, so too is the church of Jesus made up of individual, broken humanity. But together we create a work of art, together we paint a picture of a different future. A Ê»mosaicʼ is an art form both ancient and modern and we believe that the church of the 21st Century should bring the old and new together, reflecting the full picture of the great story we are called to continue – of Godʼs work interfacing with human history.

Before I confirmed to come out to Colombia I had many different options, and while staying in England made a lot of sense (and if I’m honest I wanted to stay in England), I knew that it wasn’t meant to be. God gave me a passion and desire to see people set free from within the sex trade, so I moved over here to develop some projects that will make that happen. We are very much at the start of our work into the sex industry here and are currently just trying to be a light in a dark place.

When Jon asked me to write about some of my experiences of working with young people, I knew that I wanted to talk briefly about the difference between youth work in England and Colombia. Something I have found very difficult when coming over here is the lack of planning and safety. We are currently planning a children’s playscheme for October and trying to find basic Child Protection procedures here is like bashing your head against the wall! But while that is frustrating, what I have found even more challenging is the method that is used to work with young people. Most teachers or ‘youth workers’ won’t allow young people to explore ideas or try things in different ways, they simply tell them what is the ‘correct way’ of doing things. I think this just creates a bunch of robots who don’t know why they are doing what they do!
From my experience as a young person in England, I really appreciated it when youth workers gave me the encouragement to pursue my own answers. That has always been one skill that I have used when working with other people. I think it’s one of the most important things we could do as youth workers and in actual fact it’s very easy to do.

Blogging is new for me and I’m still trying to find my feet with it all. I started back in 2008 but quickly got distracted and gave up. Late in 2009 I decided to start up again and created my own site with the aim to keep people up to date with everything thats happening in Colombia. It has since turned more into a general blog about the sex industry, youth work and many other things. Do feel free to check it out as I would love some comments on future developments of my posts. I have also just been approved as a writer for the http://www.xxxchurch.com blog (a Christian ministry reaching out to the sex industry). It’ll be a couple months before my posts are published but do keep an eye out for those too.

http://www.shaunparker.me
http://www.comunidadmosaic.com
http://www.xxxchurch.com