Stories of Asylum: being patient, taking time and building trust

Sharing and interpreting stories are dear to the heart of IDYW’s desire to explain what youth work is. Hence we are especially pleased to draw your attention to the appearance of a booklet, ‘Stories of Asylum’, the outcome of a year-long relationship between youth workers and young asylum seekers, in itself a testament to being patient, taking time and building trust.


Stories of Asylum

A youth work project in Warwickshire.


As youth workers, we met a group of young asylum seekers through a detached youth work project. We met some of them hanging out in the local park and gradually got to know them and their friends. They were aged between 15 and 19 and came from a variety of countries – Afghanistan, Iraq, Eritrea, Syria to name just a few.

We have been talking to them about their experiences in their home country (one young man left because the Taliban wanted him to wear a suicide vest), their journey here (often ending in a lorry) and their experiences of being in the UK. They were surprised we were interested. No one had asked them to tell ‘their story’ before.

One of the young people expressed a wish to share his story with young people at his school so that they might understand him better. He felt sad that he was called ‘ISIS’ and that people didn’t know the reasons he is here. From that, an idea formed of gathering a range of stories from these young people, printing a booklet and giving it to their school. The young people helped to fill in a funding bid to the local town council to pay for the printing of the booklets.

The story-gathering took place over a year. It needed trust to get the story on paper and time to ensure they were actively involved in the process. Other work took place – trips to get to know their local area; visits to the library to find books they could borrow in their home language; introductions to local places of worship plus some touristy outings.

The booklet is now printed and the second part of the project now begins – ensuring it is used well in schools. Young people are all involved in the promoting of the work, for example, through radio and newspaper interviews.

Hollie Hutchings [Team Leader]

Stories of Asylum  – the booklet in pdf

A limited number of hard copies will be available at next week’s IDYW conference in Birmingham


Telling Our Stories: The First Offering

There has been an enormous amount of interest in our STORIES project, but inevitably it’s been hard work encouraging people to put pen to paper. Thus we’re really pleased to publish this first offering from an anonymous worker and hope that it will inspire others to tell their tales about the significance of youth work in their lives. In saying this it is appropriate to remind everyone of next week’s event in the North-East.

WHY YOUTH WORK? A participatory workshop

with Bernard Davies

Tuesday 5th October 2010, 10.00-13.00

Park Road Community Centre, Elswick, Newcastle NE4 7RW    – details posted on September 4.

My interest in this subject is a result of my personal experience of community and youth work

An Anonymous story

The majority of my adolescent life was spent living with a parent that was struggling to battle alcoholism. I was responsible for the running of the household, managing the household income, doing the shopping, as my parent’s addiction would often result in them being unable to complete these tasks. Throughout this period I came into contact with numerous agencies that will now come under the integrated youth support services (IYSS).

One of the agencies I came into contact with was the education welfare officer as my attendance at school was declining rapidly. The last thing on my mind was my education, whilst at the age of 14 I was responsible for the up keep of the family home and attempting to intervene with my parent’s addiction. Their addiction was not picked up by the education welfare officer due to the fact I didn’t tell them about it or anyone else. I also went to great lengths to hide their addiction even from the rest of my family.

The next agency I came into contact with was the police as I became involved in juvenile crime. The role of the appropriate adult was taken in the numerous police interviews by a duty social worker or another family member, and again I hid the reality of my circumstances. I often felt a sense of pressure from these adult authority figures – that they would try and get me do something I wasn’t ready for or do something I simply didn’t want to do. As I now know my truancy from school was a coping strategy for dealing with the bullying I was subject to at school. If you look at the content of my story it represents a prime candidate on paper for a young person that would likely be involved in the IYSS and the information sharing agenda. Yet the reality was I had chosen to live on the outside of this data recording and surveillance. The key point here therefore is that these integrated services will only be productive if young people feel they can contribute on their terms. Though I have since gone on to share the content of my story with youth workers that I know and trust, it was important that I only told my story when I was comfortable to do so.

It was around this period that I was invited to attend a local youth centre by some of their detached staff. I was reluctant but apprehensively agreed. In fact my first encounter with the detached team was when I was with a group of friends: we were setting some newspaper alight at the local football pitch. The detached team attempted to say hello and to tackle our fire. They started by showing their identification badges to which we all responded with laughter and amusement, asking if they were weirdoes wanting to talk to kids. We then all ran off in laughter. They kept trying and on one occasion I attended a health workshop at the youth centre sampling fruit cocktails and having a health check. Perhaps the only difference between the health workshop and the initial contact with the outreach team was that there was something to attract us – a fruit juice cocktail that we just fancied it this time. This is perhaps the magic of youth work – that my first engagement was one of humour, all the way on to my life story noted in this account and going on to become a youth worker myself.

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WHY YOUTH WORK? A participatory workshop

with Bernard Davies

Tuesday 5th October 2010, 10.00-13.00

Park Road Community Centre, Elswick, Newcastle NE4 7RW

This workshop is organised by the Developing and Defending Youth Work in the North East. It will provide an opportunity for all those who work with young people and who have a commitment to youth work (as volunteers, paid workers, managers, trainers and educators) to discuss key issues facing us in the constantly changing context for practice and policy.

  • Is there something special about the process of youth work? What makes it special? Does it have a purpose and if so what? What do young people actually get out of youth work and the relationships they have with youth workers?
  • Can youth work make a difference to young people’s lives? Can we define what is meant by ‘good youth work’?
  • What are the success stories of youth work? Can they be put into words? More often than not our work is measured by numbers and by outcomes that have been set by politicians and funding bodies. But what effect does our work really have?

Following an introduction from Bernard Davies, participants will be invited to form discussion groups  to explore their experiences of youth work around themes such as:

  • Building & sustaining relationships with young people
  • Working in groups
  • Detached youth work
  • Inter-agency working for surveillance
  • Meeting young people on their terms vs meeting pre-determined outcomes

We aim to create a report from the discussions at this event to record the fine detail of the youth work process that is often not recognised by the general public and politicians.  You will also get the choice to be (or not be) in a discussion group that is video-recorded. We aim to make a DVD to capture the stories that highlight the real value of youth work.  Only those participants who give permission will be included in the DVD.

10.00      Tea, coffee & registration

10.30      Introduction, Bernard Davies

11.00      Discussion groups

12.30      Feedback

13.00      Buffet lunch

BERNARD DAVIES has been involved in youth work over many years as a practitioner, manager, trainer, policy-maker, researcher, writer and trade unionist. He has published widely on young people and youth work, including: Threatening Youth; Youth Work: A Manifesto for Our Times; A History of the Youth Service in England; and Squaring the Circle, a recent inquiry with Bryan Merton into the state of youth work.

DIRECTIONS TO VENUEComing by car: Just off Scotswood Road, turn off right when heading out of town from Newcastle onto Park Road next to Cruddas Park flats, the centre is half way up the road on the left. Public Transport: next to the No1 Bus route from Newcastle Central station, look for buses heading towards Slatyford or Buddle Road, get off at Cruddas Park shopping centre on Westmorland road. The community centre is just behind the shopping centre.

BOOKINGS – in order for us to plan lunch, please register your intention to attend and state any specific dietary or access requirements by contacting: or 0191 2742429, ask for Pearl or Don.

WHY YOUTH WORK, flyer for 5 Oct 2010, Newcastle