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Image of a youth worker in front of a counter

01 November 2021

Momtaz Ajid, Project Manager at Leaders in Community

What got you into youth work?

I really stumbled across youth work. I grew up on the estate and go into youth work through volunteering. After I finished my degree I struggled with low self-esteem and getting into youth work totally changed that. It was important to me to give back to the community and support others from a Bangladeshi background in the community. I wanted to do something a bit different and didn’t want to do the same thing that had been done before. That’s where Leaders In Community came from.

youth worker at a tableHow long have you been working with young people?

Fifteen years. It’s really nice to see some of the people who I worked with when they were young come back to the centre and share their experience.

How did you adapt delivery during lockdown?

We had just moved to our current location at the Teviot Centre and had planned a big opening before the pandemic hit. We moved all of our services online as quickly as we could. As a charity, you don’t have the infrastructure in place to go digital so that was a big challenge but we got there.

What makes youth work special?

To be able to inspire and empower others. Especially based on your personal experience. It’s really powerful to connect with young people based on shared experiences. As a youth worker, you’re respected and leaned on a bit like a teacher, but it’s more like a close friendship. Being able to understand and relate to that person’s experience is so important. You also need to make sure young people have a say in their local area. We bring different ages together, young and old, and that’s so important to make everyone feel like they’re part of the same community.

youth worker in a gardenWhat makes a good youth worker?

Agility, adaptability and creativity. You need to be able to think outside the box and shouldn’t see a challenge as something negative. There have been massive cuts to youth clubs over the last ten years and we’re now the only one serving the local estate now. It’s vital for us to create safe spaces for young people.

What’s one thing you’d tell your younger self?

Keep letting your passion drive you through the most challenging times. Stay committed to your values. Good things happen to those who have patience.

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 Leaders in Community here >

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