02 November 2021
Ryan Bish, Head of Youth Services at Knights Youth Centre
What got you into youth work?
I’m proud of where I’m from and wanted to support my community to make a difference. At the time, there wasn’t much going on in the area, so the local tenants’ residents association took over an old abandoned building to run a range of support services for the whole community. They approached me about coaching football sessions because I used to play for a professional football team whilst at secondary school and semi-professional afterwards. I soon realised there were numerous challenges the young people where faced with, so my role began to include advice and guidance and support for their overall welfare.
I was then told at an apprenticeship scheme run by Knights Youth Centre called TYLAP, so I enrolled onto the programme. From there, I went in to manage various sports, and youth work programmes across London and Greater Manchester for numerous organisations.
How long have you been working with young people?
Fifteen years. Time has gone by so quickly. Sometimes I see people I use to work with who are adults now. I’m glad to hear when they’re doing well, some of them have children of their own and are working or studying. I’ve been told of many successful stories which reassures me that my work over the years has had a positive impact on others. I’ve worked for Knights Youth Centre for the past two years.
How did you adapt delivery during lockdown?
During lockdown, we adapted our work by transferring many of our key offers to happen online. We also delivered food parcels to young people and their families. We ran cooking and baking completions, which we would provide the ingredients and recipes for. Most notable, over a five week period we delivered an initiative called the Cultural Food Project. This involved each week highlighting either a Caribbean or African country by asking families to prepare a traditional dish from one of the chosen countries. The activities really helped people at a very difficult time for us all.
What makes youth work special?
It’s such a rewarding field of work. Helping children and young people at the most important stage of their life. You’re being trusted to give them that support. An activity or support service that you run could be the only place that a young person feels safe and able to be themselves. Whether it’s a youth club or an adventure playground – it’s really the only place that is optional for young people to attend. So if a young person does turn up to the venue then this indicates they find it a safe place.
What makes a good youth worker?
There’s not a textbook answer to that. You have your core principles of youth work but there are so many different approaches. I think the main thing is the quality of relationship between the young people and youth workers.
What’s your style of youth work?
I like to know what I do is having an impact, so I strive to provide quality work which seeks to address root causes of issues. This can take time as everyone’s need is different and sometimes complex, so this can have an impact on other tasks and number targets. However, it’s about finding a balance between quality and quantity.
I’ve been around many good youth workers, so I’ve taken on their advice and followed good practice. I also find that building and maintaining good partnerships with other agencies and organisations is essential, as no one support service can do everything. It takes multi-agency working to give children the best start in life and enhance their future prospects.
I’ll put it this way, you can’t change the world, you can’t help everyone. But if you can help just one person and change their life, you should do that.
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 Knights Youth Centre here >