Tom is a youth-worker in northern England
Tom, how many times did you have to call an ambulance during your last camp?
About 6 times in 5 days.
Do you recruit the young people for the camps?
Yes. We go around schools speaking at assemblies, normally in deprived areas. We also have stalls at parents evenings schools, colleges and in youth centres. People often refer their friends once they have signed up as we offer a discount/monetary reward in order to imply the concept of work=reward just as long as they turn up on the day and complete the course. This ties in with our graduate program where, upon completion, graduates who have achieved a lot on the course are offered a place on the following course(s) to work as a paid volunteer and/or to work (paid) for recruiting.
Can these camps help young people to overcome their aggressive behavior and learn to be more tolerant towards others?
The camps show the young people the benefits of teamwork and community and how they can contribute to a better society for everyone; they are forced into a situation of social mixing which breaks down the barriers of stereotypes and preconceived ideas about people from different ethnic minorities or other disadvantaged areas/gangs; it helps them establishing what is appropriate behaviour and what isn´t; they try new [healthy] hobbies that they often take an interest in which they woudn´t have tried otherwise; they are also given the opportunity to learn about sexual health alongside being given courses and certificates in first AID and self defense which teaches them how to handle crisis situations and to avoid confrontaions; the program takes them out of their comfort zone so they can be humbled by the situation; and finally they take part in a social action project where they are given a grant of up to 500 pounds to spend on some form of community project that benefits the local area like helping clean the river or charity concerts to support a local cause, which shows the young people that working towards something for the greater good of their communities can be beneficial and rewarding.
Do you actually see any improvements at the end of a camp?
About 80-90% of the young people go on to complete the course and generally out of those individuals almost all have shown improvements in behaviour but whether this is because they only show this whilst in their groups, or whether this is just a short-term change of behaviour due to immediate influence is hard to tell, aside from the young people who have decided to continue on the graduate program. Only time will tell as to whether the crime rates will have fallen for young people aged between 16-24 in the years 2011-2019 in U.K.
How do you yourself deal with difficult situations during the camp?
It depends on the situation and whether the incident is violent, sexual, theft, narcotics or bullying. If the situation is something seriously violent or sexual then it is a police matter as the victim of the crime or their family may want to press charges. A small fist-fight will result in verbal warnings and chat aiming towards therapeutic rapport and an eye kept on the individual(s) for escallation. Theft can be difficult as we advise all young people not to bring anything valuable on the course as they don´t need them, so their possessions are their responsibility. Bullying can be difficult to see as people who are often the victims of bullying usually don´t want to come forward, and of course the perpetrators don´t want to be seen as a bully, so I always make a big speech at the beginning of a course. I go through the rules with the young people and highlight bullying as an absolute-no-tolerance rule. Drugs depend on the quantity and how hard the drug is itself – for example if someone has a couple of joints I will ask them to drop it off anonymously somwhere so i can confiscate it but if they had a large quantity of hard drugs it would be a police matter. Swearing, smoking and spitting are considered of minimal consequence to me, as these are young people from deprived areas and I believe that we are there to help them to work on some of their worse behaviours and conflicts rather than try to nitpick at every insignificant detail, which in my opinion would undermine the project as a whole.