Reaching out when others don’t

By Sarah RaparoliLex Kleren Switch to German for original article

Outreach work means that youth workers dive into the lives of young people and support them on their journey to adulthood. Although a shift is taking place here, not every municipality is following this approach. Eventually, harmonised training could become a reality and lead to further positive developments.

As the door opens, we are greeted by a little dog. "This is Daisy, I've only had her for a few weeks, " replies a voice with a British accent. Teresa Bastian leads us into her office located in Rumelange, not far from the youth centre. Tilly, as Teresa Bastian prefers to be called, comes from Cambridge in the UK and has lived in Luxembourg since 1992. She has been an outreach worker in the municipality of Rumelange since last September. "I have 15 years of professional experience. I worked in a children's home and in assisted living structures and I was ready for a new challenge. I came across this post by chance – I didn't know what it was all about, " she admits. The project in Rumelange started in 2016, as in other six southern municipalities, but according to the information brochure of the umbrella organisation of the Luxembourg youth structures, far more young people – namely adolescents from 23 municipalities – were approached.

Tilly's work mainly focuses 16-year-olds to 26-year-olds who need support on their way out of school and towards adult life. During our conversation, she repeatedly puts the emphasis on "going out, " or "being on the road" and "entering the young people's spaces, " because that is what the project is all about. "My job is to provide motivation to make a difference, to activate these young people and give them a perspective." As a youth worker, she actively approaches young people and tries to become part of their world, not the other way around.

Forest as the main meeting place

Together with Tilly and Daisy, we set off to go to the forest. The forest? In this weather? "That's where the young people often meet, " we are told in response to our astonished look. "On my first day, I was in the forest for six hours." Twice a week, Tilly and her dog go out. Tilly has no great difficulty in getting into conversation with young people. "I always have Haribo sachets and my card with me and ask if they have a few minutes for me." Some would run away because they had bad experiences and are afraid. However, Tilly can also report successes. "I went for a walk with one boy, and he told me his story. Later I helped him to write an application." When she hadn't heard back from him for a while, she texted him. "He said he was doing well. He thanked me again for my help and said he would get back to me if he needed anything." That's how short interactions can be in Tilly's job. And yet she always tries to build a basis of trust and act as a confidant and/or contact person, pursuing 1-to-1 care when possible.

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