Returning to our social justice roots is imperative
As a young man I attended a youth centre in the suburbs of Melbourne that changed my life. The staff there had a mission to see me become the best I could be. They invested in my life through camps, day trips, courses and counsel. They supported me in my down times and rejoiced in my highs. At the time I thought I was the only person they worked with like that. In hindsight I know that is how they worked with us all.
What made these staff so amazing was a belief in what they were doing and a values base which was the foundation of all their work. The motto of the organisation was ‘somewhere to belong’. The staff had a realisation that many people in society are excluded and as such they have a feeling that they do not belong to community. The staff provided a listening ear, a cup of coffee and support amongst much much more for those considered the least in society. This comes from a clear focus on social justice.
As youth workers we need to come back to our roots, social justice. Having a recognition that a hurting generation are being oppressed by systems that are designed to hold them back. A generation being harmed by individuals who claim to be looking out for their best interests. A generation with more potential than we can imagine being told to wait their turn by those who are lost in their own miseries.
It is our social justice roots which allow us to recognise the hurting. It is our social justice roots which call us to step into the gap between those who are hurting and the world. It is our social justice roots which cause us to rally against the systems and individuals who by their actions or inaction cause our young people isolation and harm.
If you call yourself a youth worker then your roots are firmly planted in the values of social justice. Remember this and draw near to it. Your work will grow from strength to strength as you draw near to the values of the profession. We need values oriented practice more than ever before. As governments world wide are pushing to destroy a social just society it is people like us who will remind them of the needs of our young people. It will be those of us with a social justice mindset that change the world.