“I want to go out and help young people”

Artur is a pupil at a North London grammar school with a keen interest in team sports, foreign languages and helping others. Artur is interviewed by Tadz Billam, a youth worker who has worked for various churches and charities and is interested in inclusive and emerging ministries, cycling and folk music. Tadz interviewed Artur around the subject of outreach in the project that he and Tadz volunteer with called Million Minutes, which explores detached youth work in a Catholic context.

Tadz: You’re involved in Polish Scouts, but also in the detached project - tell us about that...

Artur: It’s aimed at 15-to-25-year-olds, on the edge, who might be vulnerable or just hanging around and not doing anything productive. So trying to get these people to have a nice safe space to enjoy their time rather than just hang out on the streets. And that’s good because it’s a safer place than the streets. It’s warm, there’s toast. We try and provide these young people with any activities or any help that they might need.

T: What would you describe as your motivation as for being involved with the project? Why do you do it?

A: I first heard about the project a year ago and thought: “I’m not doing anything much at the moment! It’d be cool to be involved in something to shape and go with from scratch.” I’m trying to help build this big project into something that will really make a difference for the local community and on a wider scale.

T: How much do you get to shape things in the Scouts compared to the detached project?

A: Well the thing is, the detached project is reaching out to help people, at Scouts people come to you. So it’s different in that aspect.

T: So can you give me some positive and negatives about outreach as you see it? What are the things we could improve on?

A: The main positive is that people will see it, they’ll get the idea, even if it’s just like a little seed in the back of their head, they’ll think: “What was that thing? Oh, it was that thing I saw at the shopping centre!”

But the difficult thing about this is that it’s not always 100 per cent effective. Even though we were in the shopping centre for three days and countless hours, we only ‘got’ one person involved through it. That is a measure of success, in a way. It’s difficult because outreach isn’t always successful, and you don’t always get the results you want. So the difficulty is that you need to keep going, you need to keep trying with it. But if you keep going at it, keep going at it, endure, then you might just win.

T: When you were on the streets at the beginning and in the shopping centre, what did it feel like to have to speak to people?

A: It was scary at the beginning! People kind of looked at you and then brushed you off without saying a word, but I guess in the shopping centre I was there for a few hours, and by an hour in I got into it: getting people engaged, talking to people, getting them to do stuff, getting them involved. I guess if you enjoy that kind of stuff it grows on you and you grow in confidence and you don’t really mind a few people slagging your stand off! Or you don’t mind them brushing you off completely. And that’s a good thing because it shows that people need to work hard to achieve what they want. I guess that’s what youth work is about - you have to work hard and it’s a lot of effort.

T: Why is it important that we do outreach?

A: Well there’s no point in having a space for young people with no one there. Without it, no one will come and no one will know about it. So we do outreach to get people involved with the detached project.

T: What advice would you give to other people who are going to be reading this who want to do outreach.

A: Do not give up at any point. No matter how many times you’re told to go away, keep going. I think that’s what you did with the that one group, you just kept going, kept brushing past and letting them know you were there, and by the end of it they kind of got used to it. So just keep going at what you’re doing, don’t give up easily. Don’t give up at all, really. And just keep working hard to get to that aim that you’re working towards, which is helping young people through the youth work.

T: How much does this work link with how you understand church, your faith, God, or being a good person?

A: I guess it’s to do with helping your neighbour: seeing someone who is on the edge, or someone who might need your help, and reaching out to them. It might be someone who’s too proud to ask for help, and sometimes you have to offer it to people, because for whatever reason they won’t ask for it. So that’s what this is - going out to help people rather than them coming out to be helped.

Becca: I found this interview with Artur really interesting. Firstly, it’s great to hear Artur’s insights into detached youth work and outreach. He’s honest and insightful and has some brilliant advice. I love his advice to keep going and not give up.

It’s also great to hear how much Artur is invested in the project, his work clearly means a lot to him and it has been a great place to contribute his skills and develop them further. To me, this is youth work at its finest, where young people themselves shape and contribute to the work in meaningful ways. Thanks Artur and Tadz!

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