A day in the life of // Dave Fagg, youth worker

This week we have a special 'day in the life' of Dave Fagg, a youth worker from Australia. He shares what his typical Tuesday looks like in his role as youth worker for Praxis.

G’day! I’m Dave and I’m from Bendigo, Australia. I’ve been working with young people for about 20 years: as a church youth leader and youth pastor, high school teacher, foster carer for teenagers, in outreach programs, in leadership development programs for high school students and as a trainer of youth workers. I work for Praxis, an experiential course for youth workers, and I am involved in the Long Gully neighbourhood through St Matthew’s Church.

I get up between 5.30am and 6am and put the coffee pot on while I blearily wrap my dressing gown around me. The caffeine kicks in as I journal, read a psalm or two, and spend some time in silent prayer. I head out the door for a run, sweating up to the top of the old mining slag heaps that surround the council estate. Long Gully boasted rich gold mines once. No more; it now struggles under the weight of poverty and inequality. I look out over the houses and hope and pray that things can change.

The door hardly opens an inch before my 4 year old, Shane, is knocking me over, demanding that I play. I redirect him back to his porridge and sit down with him and my wife, Kylie, to eat. I find inventive ways to get Shane dressed, then have a quick shower before Shane and I head out the door to pick up my granddaughter. He zips ahead on his scooter, and we arrive at my foster-son’s house. My granddaughter is jumping out of the house with excitement, and we wave farewell to the four other grandkids. After dropping the kids at preschool, I head to a cafe to sink another coffee, read my email and update my task list.

It’s a Tuesday, so I hop on my bicycle and roll to the local high school. I volunteer in the school garden. Alongside George, a retiree and champion grower of massive pumpkins, I work with young people who are struggling. The wellbeing co-ordinator takes me to meet a young boy who comes to school for half an hour each day. I silently and wordlessly pray in preparation. The wellbeing team hope the garden will be a stepping-stone to interaction with his peers. He’s writing a short story when I arrive, and we have a chat about writing, which I love. We broach the topic of the garden. He’s guarded. Maybe he’ll visit next week, maybe not. George and I and a couple of students dig and plant vegetables, and then the bell goes.

In my office, my calendar reminds me that Praxis has a training intensive next week; I’m teaching on community development. I spend an hour digging up old workshop outlines, brainstorming activities and sketching some ideas. As I live in a country area, I don’t have a team around me. Though I am definitely an introvert, today I’d love to bounce some ideas off the Praxis team. I tire of workshop preparation and check out some favourite blogs; I enjoy getting a sense of what others think about the world, about faith, young people and youth work. At the end of the day, I get an uplifting email: the editor of a youth work book that I am contributing to thanks me for my submission.

I head home to a house in full flight: dinner is on the stove, and 3 children run riot around the house and garden. Two grandkids are staying overnight and I launch into adjudicating fights and herding them to the dinner table. Kylie and I spend the next hour in a whirlwind of eating, dishes, baths, reading stories and bedtime. I take my epilepsy medication, then read a book; my current one is Experience and Education by John Dewey. Reading after a busy day makes me drowsy, and I head to bed about 10pm.

What's the best and worst bits of your job?

I love teaching youth workers; especially when I’ve designed a learning experience that helps someone gain a new insight that changes the way they work with young people. That is a real thrill!

I find pervasive poverty in Long Gully the most difficult dimension of life. William Stringfellow said “Where money is an idol, to be poor is a sin.” This is a crushing weight for my neighbours, most of whom are poor.

What memory of your time in youth work stands out?

Nine months after we were married, Kylie and I moved into a house with three 14 year old boys who were living out of home. The idea was that we would be ‘house parents’. We were taking over from another married couple who had reached the end of their tether. The youth worker took us to the house to meet the couple and the young people. As we got out of the car, one boy bolted from inside the house out into the front lawn: rapidly gaining was the male house parent, who crash-tackled him to the dirt. We got the sense that things weren’t going well!

I love to see young people gain a new awareness about themselves or their world. There have been many times when I haven’t been hopeful about this, but I’ve found that when I challenge myself, and learn new things, that I more easily believe that it can happen for others too. God made us to learn and grow.

If I wasn't a youth worker I'd be...

A hermit. Before we got married, my fiancée gave a book about hermits. I read the book, loved it, but still got married! I’ve never regretted that decision, but I still love getting time alone. One of my favourite activities is hiking and camping by myself: I can simply be alone with my own thoughts.

Dave Fagg is a youth worker with Praxis.