The Rewards of Youth Work
Youth Work Can be Challenging
You never really know if what you are doing is making a difference. When my oldest son was in his early teens I worked on a number of youth programs, mostly as a volunteer but partly in paid work. One of the events we developed was a part of National Youth Week. Each state in Australia has their own Youth Week program and many organisations hold free events for young people.
Part of the focus of the program was to help young people become more confident and to feel a part of their community. As I was working with young men at the time, I enlisted a team of boys to help coordinate a skate and hip hop dance competition as part of a Youth Expo. We worked together to gain sponsors and some local government funding. Now, not all the boys were into the program the way I had hoped and only a few made a genuine effort (really, why was I surprised, these were teenage boys after all). It would have been easy to be discouraged and at first I asked myself why I was bothering when so few seemed to be getting anything out of the training and support.
Not all Rewards are Instant
The event went off well and everyone had a great time. It was supported by the community and most of the team ended up getting involved on the day, when all the hype created an atmosphere of excitement, but what did they really learn? Yes, they had a good time, but I was giving my time so they could really benefit, you know what I mean. I wanted to save the disadvantaged and at risk youth, that’s what I was in it for. But it wasn’t about me really, was it?
One teenager in particular had recently lost his dad and was suffering from OCD, particularly when it came to dealing with people. I coached him consistently during the program to enable him to confidently call potential sponsors. We spent quite a few training sessions together running scenarios and possible rebuttals from the prospective sponsors before he made each call. He needed to know what might happen and what he should say or do if it did. The outcome was very rewarding but it wasn’t until later that I really began to understand how my work had benefitted him and some of the other young men.
I was on holiday in Queensland; reviewing a potential business I was buying, when I got a call on my mobile. It was my protege and he was asking me for a reference for a traineeship he was applying for. I was over the moon. He had found the confidence to step out on his own and seek employment. He thanked me for all my help and from what I understand, he got the job.
Often you never really know the good you are doing until later and maybe, sometimes, not even then, but giving freely of your knowledge and time to others can be a very rewarding job if you don’t let your expectations get away from you.
Leaving a Legacy
Our own children can be our legacy, yet we may not live long enough to see all that they will achieve in their life. A legacy isn’t for now, it’s for later, usually after we have moved on or passed on. It doesn’t matter what you choose to do, whether you work with youth, volunteer with the elderly, help with the local Landcare group; leaving behind a legacy is something you may likely never see the full results from, but that should’t stop you. The interim rewards are worth it, but the long term benefits are unmeasurable.
Share your volunteering or community service story in the comments below.