August 19, 2014

When Giving Up Is Not An Option

photo (11)Working with young people, though incredibly rewarding, can often be a challenging job. Working on the ground level requires large amounts of energy and investment for what can be an emotionally draining role. Recently, I had a couple of encounters which reminded me exactly why it is I do what I do. A few weeks ago, I was at the Youth Media Summit and bumped into the new and old Live/Livity family which is always  great. It may come as a surprise that I didn’t always want to get into youth work. I was inspired and motivated by my own experiences of attending an amazing youth club in Forest Gate. There, my own youth worker was none other than Kat (radio presenter, DJ, comedian). I just happened to bump into him that day. Kat was a strict yet fair mentor to me and always told me how it was, no bows attached. For that reason we respected him entirely. The way in which I saw him interact and engage with young people made me think that perhaps I would like to do that one day. It was inspiring to me even then as a young person, Kat’s energy and enthusiasm didn’t go unnoticed. Seeing Kat at the Youth Media Summit reminded me of those early inspirations. As we spoke, he began recalling all the stories from back then and it all came flooding back to me. He said “from your brother right down to you, we would always be family”. Regardless of what Kat was doing at the time, he always involved us all, pushing us beyond our wildest dreams through organising performances, under 18 raves, cooking lessons etc. It was a humbling experience meeting Kat again. I walked happily to Waterloo station with the promise of Kat doing a inspirational talk to the young people that I work with now. On my platform I encountered another blast from the past in the form of Stefan from the group Misunderstood. With age, you are always apprehensive about being recognised again but Stefan saw me and gave me a huge hug and hello. We spoke about stories of his time with me, his over-sharing, his various arguments and how opinionated he was for a 14/15 year old back then. Don’t get me wrong, Stefan was by no means a bad kid. He was just lively and had something to say about everything. Reflecting back on our experience together, Stefan asked me how I’d done it. We discussed all of the frustration, the hate and anger at a system that Stefan had felt had failed him and his peers. He openly acknowledged that he’d directed much of that frustration at me and asked how I took it every day. I had no answer for him, other than to smile and know inside that that’s just what I needed to do. To catch up with him now, to hear about all of his accomplishments since then, which include global travel, singing and the release of his new single and video, I was so proud of him and promised to always continue to support and believe in him. (Check out the video below, Stefan is on the right!) All of this got me thinking, sometimes it’s not the forgotten thank yous or the pats on the back that matter the most. It’s the not giving up on a young person and being able to stand there with pride and proudly say that I was a part of that journey. This is what reminds me of why I do what I do. I am a part of a young person’s story and that can never be forgotten. Whenever the going gets tough, I will remember days like then, people like Kat and Stefan, and remember that where young people are concerned, giving up is not a option. 19.08.14, Naomi Brown, Senior Youth Development Manager at Livity @mz_N_Brown @mdsofficial  @katboyce