Tell us a bit about yourself and why you have spent some time at LYP?
My name’s Rachel and I have been on a 5-week placement with Leatherhead Youth Project (LYP) as part of my degree in Applied Theology with youth and Community Work. Throughout my time studying I am required to do several different types of placements. In my second year of studying, I am required to do a community youth work placement and so I had a look at a few options.
LYP was on my radar because I knew of the charity through some previous graduates who now work at the charity. Having spoken to one of the youth workers and had a look at the website I thought the work that LYP did was unique due to their 5 day a week relational hub.
What did you do on your placement?
Throughout my placement I have been involved in a real variety of different projects. Everyday I’ve been involved in BFree (LYP’s daily relational hub) where I’ve spent time with so many different young people from the local area; getting to know them and playing a range of different games.
I have also been involved in going to the local comprehensive school to help run emotional resilience sessions with some year 8 and year 9 students, and I have spent time every Wednesday and Friday at lunchtimes playing games and chatting with the year 7 and 8 students during their break.
Throughout my placement I have been involved in some forms of targeted youth work, through Connect sessions and a very interesting project called GASP which has been running while I’ve been here. GASP is a mechanics charity who come in and teach mechanical skills to the group of boys who attend, I’ve really enjoyed these sessions but as of, yet I am still unable to change the tyre on my car!
What have you enjoyed?
I have absolutely loved my time here at LYP for many different reasons. One of my highlights has been making bubble tea with the young people who come to BFree a few times. It’s been so enjoyable watching them get excited about getting involved in the process of helping make them and then of course enjoying the sugary goodness afterwards.
I have also enjoyed eating meals with the young people on Tuesday evenings and watching them grapple with big topics that have been presented to them in these sessions. I ran a session on mental health and wellbeing with the young people. This session challenged and encouraged me in the way the young people explored the topic of mental health and wellbeing and asked questions about how they can better look after themselves.
But as well as all of that, I’ve just loved getting to know each of the young people that LYP work with.
What do LYP do well?
LYP’s model of youth work is the best model I have ever come across, in terms of the quality and consistency of youth work they offer and provide for the young people in Leatherhead. The 5 day a week timetable for BFree means that young people find it such a safe place where for them it feels like a ‘home away from home’. BFree is a space young people want to spend time in and the consistency of the youth workers being present means that the relationships cultivated between the young people and the youth workers is strong. This allows the youth workers to get to know the individual needs and situations of the young people and offer additional support where required.
Another thing I have been encouraged by is the strength of the networks that LYP have in the local community. The presence the charity has at the school means that their voice and stance of situations and young people is taken seriously, and it is clear they are well regarded by local authorities and have strong relationship with other charities in the area.
The work that LYP do every day shows that young people are the driving force for all the staff that work here and that their potential, safety, and wellbeing are central to all that LYP do.
How has this challenged and grown you as a person and a youth worker?
My placement at LYP has not been free from challenges. I have never been part of a youth work structure that functions in the same way that LYP do and so my first week was definitely a push out of my comfort zone. I have been way more used to structured youth work and the unstructured nature of BFree sessions meant I had to push myself to find ways to interact with young people. Despite this being a challenge, I feel as though this opportunity has challenged and grown me in my confidence as a youth worker to be able to form strong relationships in a setting a little more unstructured to what I am used to.
I feel that LYP has helped to grow me by showing what it means to be a charity who want to meet the needs of their community. Listening to the young people in the area and acting on the needs is central to the work that LYP do. This approach shows why the young people value it so much, and this placement has shown me the importance of knowing the needs of the young people in the area.
I think another way I feel I have been challenged is through the Tuesday evening Connect session I facilitated. It felt extremely important to me that the session be engaging for all young people present. The variety of different young people across different age groups and with different needs posed a challenge to me in preparing this session, it encouraged me to think outside of the box in how to offer an engaging session for all young people present. This encouraged me to think wider than my usual styles of youth work and delivery. It challenged me to use new methods, which I will certainly use in the future.
What’s the biggest thing you are taking away from your time at LYP?
Young people desire relationship and places to be themselves. LYP’s relational hub is so well attended because the young people can come and see their friends and their youth workers, it is also a place to be true to who they are. BFree is attended by a real eclectic mix of young people, regarding ages, passions, and interests. I feel that this is due to the simple fact that they feel they belong as themselves in the space and are accepted where they are at.
What are your long-term plans?
My LYP placement has encouraged me so deeply in my journey training in youth work. The model is a model that works for young people in Leatherhead, and it is clear it is fulfilling the needs of so many young people. This time has made me consider studying the relational hub model in a bit more depth and potentially spending some time learning more about the model of the work at LYP and then in the future taking the model to a different area of the country.