Matthew's Farewell Blog
Sadly, this month sees the end of my year-and-a-half stint as a student on the Sidewalk Project. In that time I’ve taken part in more than 70 Friday evening sessions in the City Centre plus numerous sessions at St John’s School and Perth College. In addition to these, I’ve also had the opportunity to work for the project behind the scenes in the YMCA office and see the project develop from the inside.
Firstly, it’s worth putting right some misconceptions and answering some FAQ’s about what it’s like working as a detached youth worker;
1) No, you don’t get much abuse on the street
2) Being only a student, I do get paid for doing this but not a full time wage (like James)
3) Most importantly; no it’s not boring or cold (well, sometimes it’s cold); we actually really enjoy what we do.
And that is the over riding feeling that I’ll take with me from my experience on the project – enjoyment. While seeing everyone else leave the office to go home at 5 o’clock takes a bit of getting used to, my Friday evenings have become an enjoyable routine as we work through our checklist and pray as a team before heading out excited and ready for action whilst not having a clue what the night will bring.
What I will say is it really is an amazing feeling when a young person or group of young people engage in conversation with us. While we always understand when people don’t want to talk or are wary of ‘who these strangers are talking to us’, I’ve generally found that most young people are really easy going and happy to give us the chance to chat with them. Of course, what means more than that is when young people give us the chance to listen. In 18 months I’ve heard stories that have encouraged me and some that have left me feeling quite disheartened. Some have made me laugh and others have moved me so much that I’ve not been able to sleep at night. The range of different characters and lifestyles of the young people of Perth along with the issues they face ensure that going out on the street is never a chore. Sure, we have some quiet nights with not many people about but there’s always a colleague from the Sidewalk team to wander the streets with and keep me entertained in one way or another (we once had a great Bob Marley sing-song with a busker but that’s another story for another time).
Plus, getting the opportunity to work in both a school and a college has opened my eyes to quite how many young people live in such a small town. I now know I can’t walk through town without bumping into someone that I’ve met on Sidewalk in some way or another. It’s always good when we bump into someone who we haven’t seen in while and find out what’s going on in their lives. I’ve come to know that what’s happening in these lives are hugely valuable in the eyes of the project and knowing that we can be given the chance to get alongside young people as they deal with what life brings is what makes going out each night completely worthwhile.
I’m sad to be missing out on all this every Friday but even though I’ll not be working as a student, I still get to help out on the project as a volunteer so I’ll be out on the streets hopefully one Friday a month.
Other than that, thanks for some really cool memories.
And (I’m sure) I’ll see you around.