Voices of Open Youth Work






Peter is a youth worker, who manages the project Werkt!
in Rotterdam, The Netherlands.

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Too often care projects are basically cuddle projects, which only aim at getting the target group off the street

Tell me a bit about yourself?

My name is Peter, I’m 61 and I worked a big part of my professional life on the cutting edge of work and coaching. I worked with homeless people, addicts and youngsters.
To have a job is important to people, it includes them in society. It is increasing self esteem and creates a social environment. Work should be a right for every human and I’m not alone in this opinion. The universal deceleration of human rights does state that there is a right to work and to have an income, which enables you to have a normal life.

The work you do, the methods you use, what is it based on?

We found this project in Austria – “Job Ahoi” – which did already use the same methods we are now using in Rotterdam. We visited it and “translated” the project to Dutch reality. So before we started we did already know that this way of working was potentially very strong and probably also would work in The Netherlands.
The best thing is the fact that it is a job which comes with a salary. Too often care projects are basically cuddle projects, which only aim at getting the target group off the street and put them in a building so the public can go on with their live without being disturbed.
I strongly believe that everybody has talents and the main goal should be to unleash these talents.

What makes youth work different form other professions that work with youth?

We got time. For example in the Werkt! Project young people can stay for a maximum of 2 years. Which means we have time to work on things without having to force it. When things get tough we do not kick them out but give them a second, third and fourth chance. The atmosphere within youth work is generally positive and most of the time the group plays a big positive role in this. AND you don’t have to do stuff, but if you want, than we create all the possibilities in the world.

How would you describe you relationship with Nomie?

She is special. She was the first girl who actually started working in our bicycles repair shop. She is very present, takes on more responsibility than the others and supports her colleagues. She is a young mother with a child and since I also have children I can relate to that. Seeing how she is acting and how she does things and how responsible she is, I strongly believe that this story should have a happy end.

Have there been any challenges?

Nomie is a victim off bureaucracy. I know I get very irritated by that. Not only in her case but also in general. But if I start to join her in crying about this kind of things, I’m not helping her at all. So I have to switch the switch and tell her that life is not fair but, within the framework we are having, we need to get the best out of it. It is connecting the dots and colouring the figures.

Another thing is that she, like all participants of Werkt!, has to go at one point. Which is good but of course also a bit strange.

What’s the best thing about your job?

First of all the high positive results we have. Positive outcome is when a participant moves on to a job, an education or takes in any other form control over her/his life. Normally we are above 80%. Another positive thing is the freedom me and my team have to do things like we want them to do. Last but no least, the amount of red tape is cut to the minimum, so I can use most of my time and energy to work with youth.

If you have to sum up the journey that you and Nomie have been on?

The ship is steady on course. Goals are set and reached.

by Marc Boes (2018)

Marc Boes started his career as a youth worker in 1984 and is today managing director of Stichting JONG and poywe.

Photos © Marc Boes
Video © poywe/Alexandra Beweis


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