A 17-year-old youth worker has praised the Youth Service for helping him build his identity and learn new skills, as he called for politicians to back a bid to protect it from funding cuts.
Kenan Bryan visited his first youth club in St. John at the age of 10, right when the club opened and was actually the first young person to go in.
“I spent a lot of time in St. John with my grandparents and I have a few friends there. We saw a new poster about the youth club, and we went on the opening day,” he told Express.
“It was amazing, it was brilliant, as young people we had never had that place before where it is your space, where you are in charge of what you want to do. The youth workers are there for you, it is all based on what young people want.”
Video: Kenan first joined the Youth Service at the age of 10.
Since that first introduction, Kenan has himself become a youth worker and volunteers at two youth clubs three nights a week.
“I think they do such great work and I have always been a firm believer of giving back,” he explained.
“It is such a rewarding job to do. I say 'job', but it is not a job, it is so enjoyable. When I finish school, I look forward to getting there. It’s such a rewarding job to give young people a safe, comfortable and fun environment to be in to have friends.”
Reflecting on his favourite memories about his time with the Youth Service, Kenan says it would take forever to list them. Similarly, when he is asked his favourite thing about the service, he says he couldn’t possibly choose just one thing.
He is however particularly proud of the fact his involvement in the Youth Service allowed him to be recognised with a Gold award in the Yoscars (Youth Oscars), a Government scheme that recognises young people for their involvement in local projects.
More recently, the Lions Club named him Young Ambassador for the Lions’ District 105SC, representing 58 Lions Clubs across the south of England and the south Midlands.
Pictured: "It has helped be build my confidence and self-esteem and my own identity," Kenan says.
But for Kenan, the benefits of the service go far beyond the recognition.
“The Youth Service shaped me into the person I am,” he said. “Without it, I would be a much different person. It has helped be build my confidence and self-esteem and my own identity. It has encouraged me to work with young people, which is something I might not have done otherwise. I have developed new skills and a better understanding of social interactions and relationships.”
For Kenan, the Youth Service is “vital” to young people and its importance was made even more clear throughout the pandemic as vulnerable young people struggled “when they did not have that place to go to”.
It is also invaluable, he says, to young people from the LGBTQ+ community, whose mental health might otherwise suffer if they didn’t have somewhere safe to talk about their feelings.
“It is there to provide a safe space to young people to make sure they have fun and they are ok and they are coping with daily life,” he said.
“What the youth service stand to believe is that you can be whatever you want to be and we will support you.”
Kenan firmly believes the "amazing" Youth Service should be protected and fully supports the proposals brought forward this week by the former Education Minister, Senator Tracey Vallois, to make it a statutory service under the Education Law.
In the report explaining her proposal, Senator Vallois explained that as a statutory service, the Youth Service would be less likely to suffer budget cuts in the name of 'efficiencies', while also having a legal responsibility to the public.
Pictured: Senator Tracey Vallois published a proposition to make the Youth Service a statutory provision.
She said she didn’t want Jersey Youth Service, which she described as “a real hidden gem”, to experience the same “demise” as the youth provision in England, which has led to the loss of skills and experience.
While she said Constables and their parishioners support the youth and community services, Senator Vallois said giving the States Assembly a say in the future of the service would provide “long term greater security”, rather than “a round robin budget fight in the name of efficiencies”.
Noting that all States Members had been involved with the Youth Service in different ways, she called on the Assembly to recognise the importance of the service in children and young people’s lives.
“Youth workers play an important role in supporting our children and young people and the Jersey Youth Services provide an essential part within our islands service for children and young people,” she said.
“Our Youth Service really do punch above their weight in providing the support and work of government on another level. Including picking up the pieces of statutory services that are continuously carrying out reviews and take substantial time to provide crucial support to our children and young people that very often our youth service, without a blink of an eye, step in to support.
“It is no longer a system of purely growing roots from parishes but is and will continue to be, a fundamental part of our democracy and an instrumental role of our responsibilities of listening to the voice of our children.”
Pictured: Senator Vallois has called on the Assembly to recognise the importance of the service in children and young people’s lives.
She called for “a bold and ambitious support” for the youth service, which would include increased Government funding, as well as suitable properties for the service to operate from and the recognition of the vital work they carry out within the next Government Plan.
For Kenan, States Members should support the proposals given they have signed a pledge to put children first and Jersey is part of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
“It’s an invaluable service to young people, if States Members want to stop it, in their position of power they are not doing their job and I would question it and ask them to look at it again,” Kenan said.
“The service needs to be protected and it needs to be available for many years to come.
“I do not think a lot of people do realise the amount of volunteers that actually help the youth service. The Government should recognise how good the service is and the amount of volunteers who give people a place to hang out with their friends.
“We need to realise what an amazing service we have here. The UK have a youth service but it’s nowhere near as good as what we have. As a service, we are looked upon by other nations and they want to take some of the things that we do.”
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