Walking alongside and empowering a young person is an invested journey, with plenty of ups and downs, says youth worker Hannah Woods.
During library lessons, I regularly read with young people to get to know them and identify who might benefit from youth work contact in future. It was during this time that a Year 7 boy called Matt and I discovered a shared love of geeky science fiction.
There were a number of lovely, but slightly wild, boys whom I felt would benefit from a youth group of some description. Through conversation with them, the concept of ‘Stick Club’ was born – going into the wooded areas around school and building things out of branches and twigs.
Matt enjoyed Stick Club in Year 8 and engaged well, even when his peers threatened mutiny.
At the end of that year he asked to come back as a young leader, paving the way for what is now a developing young leaders’ programme.
Sadly, part-way through Year 9, Matt’s general mood and behaviour became troubled due to an unsettled home life. We mutually agreed that he step back from being a young leader at Stick Club, but I had capacity to work with him one-to-one.
He gave up his lunch break to meet with me, which indicates how much he valued the mentoring time. Young people don’t give up lunch breaks lightly!
I worked with his school pastoral lead and his tutor to ensure safeguarding, transparency and the best levels of collaborative care we could provide for Matt.
It was a rocky few months but Matt’s home situation improved, creating a knock-on positive impact on his wellbeing. He has started looking outwards again – a strong indicator of feeling safer, more resourced and wanting to contribute again in his community.
During our weekly mentoring sessions the idea of forming a ComicCon Club emerged. Matt knew of a teacher who would be keen to collaborate, and young people who would be interested. Matt is now in Year 10, and ComicCon Club is gathering momentum and bringing young people together.
Matt needed a time of intensive one-to-one mentoring, but now he’s ready to share his ideas with the world. We’ve walked with him from a tiddly 11-year-old to a tall 14-year-old, and we’re still there, excited to see what the next few years will hold.
Hannah Woods is Lead Youth Worker with Doorsteps, Viva’s partner network in Oxford.
Doorsteps features in ‘Expanding Horizons’, our Christmas Match Appeal 2019 – go to viva.org/christmasappeal for more details.
This article first appeared in Life magazine, issue 12