She was very caring and sitting amongst some younger people, I thought this demonstrated something about her
Amir can you tell me about your very first moment that you remember working with Oda
It was some years ago, I remember her, she was in secondary school, I went to her school to recruit students to a group of youngsters for a youth council. She was young, she’s still young! She was very caring and sitting amongst some younger people, I thought this demonstrated something about her, this seemed very good to me so I asked her, are you interested in the youth council? I said “you can come to just one meeting and decide afterwards”, so she came and since then she was interested.
So the next time I asked her if she was interested to be involved in a study visit to Krakow Auschwitz, she was, so then we worked on this project about the world war and human rights. She was a volunteer with me with a group of 50, 60 other youngsters. We spent 1 week in Berlin and then she became more and more involved.
How did she become more and more involved, what did you do to encourage her?
She was getting more interesting and interested in the work – she wanted to do something with us. Every time we have conversations and she attended our meetings and we talked, she experienced the benefits of being involved even after school times, she learnt more about herself, about others, about her confidence. Then she chose to be a youth councillor and then we needed a youth mayor, so I asked if she was interested to be a mayor, and she told me “I don’t know I am not sure I am not confident, I don’t dare” I talked with her 4 or 5 times.
4 or 5 times – you didn’t give up? You were convinced she was right for the job? How did you know she was right for it? Why did you push her?
I thought her time has come, she is interesting, she just needs to be aware of herself, and her possibility, so then I tried a little bit harder to convince her. I suggested that she should try out the job, it is not very dangerous just for one year, and you know what, she liked it, actually I told her in advanced “you must be prepared to go on and talk by yourself, why you are there, why you wanted to be a youth mayor”. So she went on and spoke to the youth board and talked and talked that she was interested, and she succeeded.
Amir, for how long have you known Oda?
About 8 years, I have known her all of these days
It is quite a long time, what do you think your role has been working with her, what have you done that is youth work, that is distinct?
I don’t know what I’ve done is special, What I did for her, is what I do for young people, I have worked for young people approximately 25 years, I have always tried to show them the ways of the world, the doors they can open, but they must do that for themselves, I can help show them the door but they must go to through the door themselves, the choice is for them, not me, I just show them, and then some of them choose that way, some of them not. I know young people who are now criminals, they were not born that way. One boy, he was good in elementary school, something went wrong for him and now he is sitting in jail. And I know some people like Oda sitting in powerful and influential position in the biggest youth organisations in Norway, and all the young people over the years in between this range.
I have always tried to show them the ways of the world, the doors they can open, but they must do that for themselves
I’ve learnt a lot from them and I try to learn something about all of the youngsters I work with
That’s a wide social spectrum, one of the things Oda said about you was that you could support and encourage young people but also keep young people in order even those ones who were a bit on the edge would respect you
Because I also respect them, and if I can I show my respect to the young people, I can receive respect, I’ve learnt a lot from them and I try to learn something about all of the youngsters I work with. This is the reason why they call me in the middle of the night, when one of our youngsters has been arrested or held by the police, the first person they call… is me! Me, because they may not be able to talk to their father or mother, so I’m there, so anytime they need me I am there.
And you and your family is ok with that
My family is used to this, its a long story because my wife is working with young people, my oldest son he is 30 years old he also works with young people and my daughter also she works in youth clubs in Norway.
You are a youth work family
Yes. Because youth work is often a job, but for other people it is a way of life, it’s a way of seeing the world I enjoy very much, it’s not the money, the payments ok, it’s a very important issue as well.
But you are not going to get rich being a youth worker
No, but its not only job I’ve done, when I started my work I was a teacher, I have my main qualification in physics and mathematics not youth work in Norway and so in the beginning when we arrived here I started to work in a youth club to learn the language and because I thought that if you work with the young people it’s easier and they are not as judgmental.
So after a while I got so interested to work with young people until, even if I was offered a job as a teacher or as a lecturer in physics or mathematics I said no I want to work with young people, so again I went back to studies in youth work courses and anything to do with leadership, so I liked youth work so very much, that I forgot all about mathematics
Ok and if you were to sum up what you think a good youth worker is and what a good youth worker does, how would you explain it
A youth worker is there for the young people, they should listen to them and talk to them to show the way what’s good but always they are themselves. They have the choice, to know the way of the results of the choices is very important but young people are not scary they are good people. I like them so they need to be listened to.
And I think they like you for liking them, this is why you worked with them for so long
I know after so many years, its funny 2 days ago I met a girl with 2 babies. She looked at me and said hello, don’t you remember me, I was 12 years old when I went to your club. I was so happy I was so full of pride, my wife was with me and she said how does she remember you, I said I’m not sure but I’m so pleased she did, that day was a good day that was very good.
Do you think about the impact you have on some young people’s lives
I do and it is a very heavy responsibility, obviously when things are good and all is well, I’m happy but I also experience some of my youngsters who are desperate and lonely. Recently a youngster committed suicide, their parents came and talked to me at the funeral and it is very sad when that happens, all I can do is be there with them. The best times are when you get invited to their weddings, these are the good moments mixed with bad moments and fortunately I’ve had more happy ones, like meeting Oda and encouraging her to reach her potential.
by Pauline Grace (2015)
Pauline Grace is a youth worker and head of the MA Programme youth work at Newman University in Birmingham/UK