Joe Li at the Edge in Bradford
Joe Li - The Edge Project
The first thing that struck me on arrival to the Edge Project and its parent organisation, the Holme Christian Community, was the warm hospitality with which I was greeted. Although I was told that Holme Wood is one of the most deprived estates in England, this material deprivation certainly did not extend to the residentsÃ¢€â„¢ hearts and minds. The people were generally warm-hearted, kind and helpful; once, a group of schoolgirls stopped of their own accord and gave me directions when they caught sight of me standing at a fork in the road, hopelessly lost.
My activities at the Edge Project involved assisting the youth workers there, Adam and Sam, with their daily activities with the young people. Many of these activities take the form of "drop-ins"Â. These are informal occasions when kids can gather in the Edge building and chat with their friends, play pool or seek advice from the youth workers. From these sessions, I gleaned an insight into the Edge as a place of sanctuary away from the various dangers facing a young person on the streets or at home. The Edge Project is also involved with organising trips, such as an evening of bowling or a daytrip to Alton Towers, which provide an occasion for young people to relax and have some fun. Although some people may brand these teenagers as "trouble youthsÃ¢€Â, my interactions with them demonstrated that they were fully functional and, in some cases, exceptional members of society. The respect and admiration that Adam and Sam received from the youths was immediately evident; one boy even professed an ambition to become a youth worker like Adam and Sam. Despite this, they manage to remain very down-to-earth and accessible to the youths, and I was very much struck by the convivial intimacy with which they interacted with the teenagers.
Due to the communal nature of the Edge Project's parent organisation and the closely intertwined relationships of the local youth groups, I often found myself helping out with other aspects of work in the Holme Christian Community. I was involved in Daylight, an event which provides an occasion for the elderly to gather and spend time together. I greatly enjoyed helping the elderly in their game of bowls and even picked up a few tips myself. I also worked a stint in the onsite café, where I mostly washed dishes and assisted in the preparation of food. During the last few days of my placement, I took the role of a team leader during X-Sport, a youth sports camp ran by another Christian youth group. Although our team lost in the end, I hugely enjoyed the occasion, which involved a fancy dress bleep test and numerous songs and chants. Even though I left the event with sore legs and a hoarse voice, the sports camp provided a valuable insight into the nature of youth work. I was astounded by the energy and enthusiasm that Sam and the other youth workers constantly displayed, whether in orchestrating songs and chants or taking part in athletic events. My experiences during X-Sport also made it apparent that whilst patience is normally a virtue, in youth work it is a necessity.
At the end of the placement, I feel that it has been a hugely enjoyable occasion and has provided me with valuable and profound insights into the nature of youth work and into a part of England that I would have otherwise never visited. I have hugely relished the opportunity to meet work alongside people such as Adam, Sam and the many other youth workers who dedicate their lives to improving the lives and opportunities of young people in the community. Also, I thank my most gracious hosts, Reverend Mark and his wife Sheila, for making my stay comfortable and enjoyable and treating me as almost one of the family during my time here. And I thank all the youth workers and youths that I have met who gave me many new experiences and cherished memories that I will carry for the rest of my life.