6-13 The Joys of Youth Work

The last few weeks have seen an uptick in insanity in the Youth Center. Not the fun kind of insanity.

I work with at-risk youth. On a guess, I would say that 50% of the older boys have had some kind of run in with the police, mostly for marijuana charges. The girls are less likely to attract official attention but they have an equal number of risk factors. This is the world I work in, so keep these stories in that context.
The Youth Center has a regular population of about 200. I mean that about 200 of the same youth come through the youth center at least once a week. There are another 100-200 that comes wandering in and out like erratic planets in the solar system. With that many teenagers, and that many hormones, we have about a fight a month. Sometimes it is just a swearing any maybe a slap and sometimes it goes a lot further. Similarly, with that many people, we have occasional thefts of petty things like cell phone chargers, portable speakers and flipflops. (Flipflops are an obnoxiously common theft, actually.) For the most part, the youth trust each other and respect the space. They get the golden rule.
The last two weeks have seen a rash of thefts, fights and other misbehavior. We’ve had 4 major thefts totalling 16000 vatu (~160 USD) and 2 laptops. There has also been an increase in smaller thefts. We’ve had three public fist fights and 2 incidences of public drunkness as well as a squad-wide bender and 2 sexual harassment complaints. (Again for context, there has been a general surge in all of these in Vila over the last few weeks. It is cooler, people are out of their houses more and we are leading up to Independence Day, the week-long, country-wide party.) Though I am not happy with the increase in issues, I’m also not unhappy with the response from them.
A lot of the issues revolve around Vanua Fire. For the most part, they are a good group of talented young performers. Rather than the Youth Center or SmolBag saying to the squad, “You can’t do this,” or, “You need to kick out those people,” they met to discuss the problem. They didn’t meet just with the ringleaders of the group or just with the trouble makers. They met with the entire group. They did ask for the removal of any one person but left it up to the group to decide how to go forward.
In forcing the Vanua Fire to make the decision about how they will proceed, the youth in Vanua Fire are taking responsibility for their own actions. They are in charge of the results over the next few months and they will be responsible for any further incidents. It is a subtle way of forcing the youth to cease being youth and become leaders. The Vanua Fire group are admired and respected by other youth and by the public around Vanuatu. This is a chance for them to start to grow into that respect.

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