This month’s column in Ponsonby News is not about food or my normal content. This month it’s about the fantastic work that Youthline do for our young people in need. And they’re based in Maidstone Street in Ponsonby.
I was aware of their existence and recall driving past their building. I now know a lot more about what they do as I have the good fortune to be working for Youthline at the moment – so there’s my declaration of interest.
But in a way this article is not only about Youthline per se, it’s about young people in need and about how we can help.
I knew Youthline provided telephone counselling for young people but was amazed to find out about the wide range of other support services they provide. In effect they are a youth development organisation. They offer a wrap-around service that includes covers early intervention, counselling, youth work and training and development. Much of this is under the radar for most of us who live in Ponsonby.
Just checking out some of the statistics relating to youth activities and services is hugely revealing.
According to the Auckland Council there are 27,000 young people in Auckland who are not involved in education, employment or training – they’re called NEETS! And it’s likely that this figure does not include the 1,500 young people who are currently homeless within Auckland!
Scary figures for sure. I had no idea of the scale of this problem. And it is a problem, and it’s our problem. Maybe it’s not enough for us to donate $5 to the street appeal collectors, not enough to text donate $3. Maybe we have to assist in a more practical way, lending our experience and wisdom in support of young people who need a break!
Back to Youthline for a moment. Established in Auckland in 1970 (45 years ago!) Youthline works with young people, their families and those supporting young people. They are made up of volunteer and paid staff members – and there are centres across the country. They are a fantastic bunch of caring and dedicated young people helping other young people.
Here are some more poignant and sobering figures.
In the last year Youthline worked with 38,000 individual young people and its volunteers contributed over 58,000 hours. As well there were 277,000 digital connections by phone, email and text with text being the predominant form of contact. I was surprised that texting was so predominant but of course it stands to reason – texting is an easy, anonymous, safe form of contact that can be made from anywhere and you can’t be heard!
Making contact with Youthline can be the first step to a programme of personal development that benefits the individual and society generally.
There are two wonderful programmes that I wanted to mention that reflect the diversity of youth support activities.
Action Education is a youth development organisation with an edge. They use creative and action-based methods (spoken word, drama, music and poetry) to engage young people in youth development processes that improve self-confidence, resilience and social interactions and behaviours. In the first 6 months of 2015 they have presented 40 Spoken Word Poetry Workshops to 993 young people at schools across Auckland.
Action Education also runs an inter-secondary schools poetry competition (called WORD – The Front Line) that has ignited significant interest across Auckland secondary schools. The 2015 competition attracted entries from 22 schools from around Auckland with 32 teams and 144 young people participating in the auditions. Twelve teams made it through to the Grand Final to be held at the Aotea Centre in Auckland on October 24th 2015. This is amazing stuff.
In May of this year Youthline launched a free, confidential and friendly Youth Health Service where testing, prescriptions and general checkups are available for anyone under 25. There’s no grumpy doctor’s receptionist to navigate your way past in this process! Of course it wouldn’t occur to most of us that young people don’t get medical attention when they should.
Remember those 27,000 NEETS. Many young people don’t have the benefit of being supported by their parents or whanau, many don’t have the money to pay for the doctor’s bill.
So what’s my point?
Well two points actually.
Firstly there is a large group of young people out there who need support and help and wonderful organisations like Youthline are providing support that is part of a journey to personal development and contributing positively to society.
Secondly, we as individuals can help more than just putting $5 into the collection bucket. We can volunteer.
There are many not for profit organisations out there looking for volunteers. This year’s theme for the recently held National Volunteer Week 2015 was ‘There is a Place for You to Volunteer!’.
A good place to start would be Volunteering Auckland at www.volunteeringauckland.org.nz . They have heaps of opportunities to volunteer with upcoming appeals including for Cystic Fibrosis, Multiple Sclerosis, CanTeen and Pink Ribbon.
As I said earlier maybe we have to assist in a more practical way, lending our experience and wisdom in support of young people who need a break!
Take up the challenge!
And if you know of a young person who would benefit from engaging with Youthline please encourage them to free call 0800 376 633; Free txt 234; Email firstname.lastname@example.org ; or Live Chat at GoChat.