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youth worker in a garden

05 November 2021

Kyarna Morris, Youth Drama Assistant at Immediate Theatre

What got you into youth work?

My friends got me into youth work. Growing up, I studied all the time and I didn’t have people around me encouraging me to do something that would relax me. The school I went to was very academic. When school finished, we’d go home. There wasn’t community space for us to hang out and I didn’t have the space at home to have all my friends over.

So I decided to join Immediate Theatre as a young person. I met so many young people interested in the same things as me; drama being the main one. It exposed me to environments I hadn’t been in before. When I was young, I stayed in my own community, Hackney. Now, I was travelling about different theatre groups, meeting incredible people. I felt like I could go beyond my community and spread my wings!

youth worker at her desk

How long have you been working with young people?

I’ve been employed by Immediate Theatre for a year. I volunteered here back when I was 16 until I went to university to study criminology. When I finished university, I looked at the options I had and I wanted something engaging with different communities. I joined in October 2020 and it’s been amazing. Because I started during the pandemic, I feel like I’ve grown in the role far quicker than I could’ve imagined. I got involved in the Rise Up programme, then I recently got accepted for a Level 3 BTEC Youth Supporter course.

How did you adapt delivery during lockdown?

We needed to make sure that the young people who’d been involved in our work before the pandemic were still engaging with us. One of the problems was that parents didn’t have the resources for young people to get online. It’s easy to assume every household has that, but in reality they don’t. We gave out a resource pack with a tablet, basic equipment like pencils, pens, paper. We’d also include items that they could use for a costume so that they could take part in plays online.

There were so many initial barriers, and once we’d dealt with those we had to look at how to continue engaging young people online. We started using a site called Word War and the format’s really fun and bright. We’d play this game called ‘act it out’ on there and then the young people would have to act out the different scenarios on there. It could be ‘a dinosaur that swims on the moon’ and they’d have to be beyond creative. During the pandemic, everything was serious; it was overwhelming. We gave young people an opportunity to be silly.

youth worker laughing

What makes a good youth worker?

I’d say vigilance and good observation skills. It’s easy to be in a room with a group of young people and work with the young people there who are the most engaged. But you need to look out for the quiet young people, those who might need extra support. For me, when a group of young people come in, you can observe things about the friendship groups they have outside of Immediate Theatre and some of the potential conflicts. When we put them into groups for performances, we need to make sure that they’re comfortable and feel safe. They’re not going to tell you, “I had an argument with that person.” So you have to be able to look for the signs of that and make any adjustments.

As a youth worker, it’s not just you as an individual: you’re a team. And every team member has their own role and expertise. We all want the best outcome for the young people we work with.

What makes youth work special?

Youth work is the best way to engage young people. When I was young, I felt dismissed and neglected by society. I felt like growing up is a scam, paying for uni is a scam, ‘adulting’ is the worst thing ever. When I got involved with Immediate’s summer programmes, I felt like I could reach the stars! And I felt supported by people, even though it was all completely new to me.

I grew up with plenty of people who didn’t connect with anything else. They didn’t connect with school; they didn’t get on well at home. But in this environment, they felt like they were meeting people they could connect with. A lot of people have to grow up really fast, really young. That’s what makes youth work special: it’s a space full of positivity where people are able to thrive.

Celebrating London’s #CommunityChampions

To mark Youth Work Week 2021 (1-7 November), London Youth is taking the opportunity to celebrate youth workers. The work they do makes a huge difference to the lives of young people across the capital. Youth workers are the unsung heroes of our communities. These are the community champions we want to spotlight this week.

Across our network of over 600 community youth organisations, there are thousands of youth workers who are champions for their communities. With young people’s lives massively impacted by the pandemic, youth workers are playing a vital role in supporting a generation to be the best they can be.

Our #CommunityChampions campaign spotlights the youth workers transforming the lives of young Londoners.

You can find out more about Immediate Theatre here >

Read more from our #CommunityChampions here >

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