I’m not sure there is ever a ‘typical’ detached session, so I thought I’d try to write a bit of a narrative about how a session can be go. I hope the words paint a picture you can imagine…
It’s Friday night, about 7.35pm and we (me – Jen and Adam) are out and about on a detached youth work session.
We’ve been out for about 5 mins and I see an elderly lady by a local corner shop. She tells me how her grandson is doing (now about 28 yrs – living away from the area. He used to have a bad drug addiction and was in and out of prison from a young age). He’s settled now, doing well with his partner and a one-year-old baby girl. I asked her to pass on my regards to him next time she speaks to him.
We head towards another local shop where I get some midget gem sweets!
Still no young people… I checked my phone (for the time!) …missed call – from a lady on the estate in her mid 30’s and who I’ve known since she was about 14 yrs! Her partner is having a few problems with his laptop / printer – could we maybe help… as it happens we’re at the bottom of her street, so we offer to pop in and see if we can help. While we can’t solve the problem, we are able to find a good temporary solution, so he can get done what he needs. As we chat, she tells me how her son got ‘star of the week’ in P.E at school, he’s settled back in well and she’s pleased and proud. They are grateful for the computer support and off we go on our way…
Walking over the nature reserve – it’s a still, yet cold night. Dry but fresh because of the rain we had early evening.
Still no young people… just as we cross the road we see a group of 5 or 6 young people, but as they turn and we cross our paths naturally seem to miss, so we continue on, in the hope that other opportunities will come our way.
Then as we arrive at the next local shop/ chip shop, so do a different group of young people. (A group of five lads and two girls.) We know three of the lads quite well, one not so much, the other, not at all. The girls – again, never met. As we meet we say hi to those we know and catch up a little, while making a connection with those we’d never met. (Not always an easy task, but these young people chose to respond positively!)
The young people get their chips and a drink, then altogether we walk down to the park at the dell. They chat to us about college, school, working part-time jobs to get some cash. We chat about Fifa17 and the dangers and risks in some manual labour jobs of getting into accidents at work, when your concentration drops. We talk about confidence and starting in a working environment where you know someone, how this can make it less scary or stressful and helps in building up their confidence.
With the lads we know quite well we end up chatting about relationships. About how they cope or struggle with break-up’s. One says he feels it straight away, while another says he tries not to show he’s hurting in front of others, but says he feels it inside. We talk about being safe, comfortable and how expressing feelings is really important, that crying is an ok and good thing to do. We chat about what’s important in a relationship, friendship, trust and not rushing things or feeling pressured. After about 40 mins we say goodbye and head on our way again…
Past another shop… a fish and chip shop… not really seen any more young people… another shop… another chippy.. another shop… no young people… then back in for the night.
It’s 9.40 pm and we’ve been out and about for the past couple of hours. As we reflect on the session we have seen 18 young people out and about. Of those 18 we have said hi and had conversations with 7 young people. While not a high number (which is not totally unexpected at this time of year, as it starts getting colder and darker a lot earlier) the depth and quality of the conversations was really encouraging.
Detached work is based on mutual respect and trust in conversation. It requires an ability to listen not just to what is being said verbally, but through body language and how people interact with each other and you as a worker. It’s about listening to the story that’s being told, beyond the words – to what’s not being said. Through all of this it’s about focusing on the individuals within the group, choosing to care for each one of them. It’s about being non-judgmental and facilitating dialogue, giving them space to explore, question and challenge their own values, beliefs and assumptions and allowing them to impact and influence you as you seek to be a positive influence on them.
Now, time for a hot chocolate!