By Stewart Boyle - 1 July 2019
Stewart has been involved with Worth Unlimited for about 8 years, as a young person and then a youth worker. He shares his story:
I was once just like any other young person. I’d finished school, been to college and was ready to enter the big wide world. Only problem is, I had no idea what I wanted, where I was in life and where I wanted to go. I had ideas of university, but the reality was the money wasn’t there. If I’m completely honest with myself, the drive to do something wasn’t there either. I started to drift through life day by day, ending up on somewhat of a downward spiral, desperately in need of some guidance and opportunities. This is when I stumbled into the world of Worth Unlimited. It started with just engaging with youth workers doing the rounds in my local area. Then I thought I’d give some of the activities a try. At the time, it was just something to do, something to break up the monotony of my life. I never imagined any of this would go anywhere. Eventually I was hooked and found myself coming to youth groups and before I knew it, I was signing up to a social enterprise course.
In 2012, I became a founder of a social enterprise called Gear Up, with the aims of running a community-friendly cycle business, encouraging healthier lifestyles and creating job opportunities for young people like myself. I became a trained bike mechanic; a free-lance instructor for Birmingham City Council (delivering Bikeability in local schools) and a ride leader for British Cycling. 7 years later, alongside the day-to-day running of Gear Up, youth work is a big part of my current job role, such as a weekly evening drop in session. I regularly have young people in the Gear Up shop - sometimes as part of work placements or mentoring programmes, other times just to chat and hang out. These are the kind of sessions I remember from my own experience.
Now, looking back on those sessions and seeing them from the perspective of a worker, I have a whole new insight into the real value of what goes on. As a young person, the sessions and activities were just something to keep me occupied. It’s only when I look back now that I see what was really happening. Those youth activities were getting me out of the house, engaging me with other young people. When I was lacking motivation and direction, not sure what to do with myself, all those casual conversations I was having with youth workers were guiding me, helping me subconsciously to make better life choices. Now I get to have the ‘casual’ conversations that may have profound effects later on down the line, just as they did for me.
And so it seems my story has come full circle: I’ve come from a young person struggling to find a place in the world, to a youth worker helping other young people in the same position I was once in. Having come through the pathway that we always strive to walk within in our youth work, I now have valuable experiences and skills to pass on to those who will come after me. I can’t help but look to the future and think of the next generation of young people who will come after me, and all the great things they might achieve. It then becomes glaringly obvious just how valuable what we do can be. When we find a young person at just the right time in their lives and support them through the pathway, the results can really be something special. Furthermore, if we empower them to repeat the process with others and they do the same for another generation, then there really are no limits to how far this can go!