He tangata, he tangata, he tangata
Anya talks edgewalking, liminality and the practice of youth development.Ngā Kete o te Wānanga
A couple of weeks ago I read an article* about edgewalking, liminality and the practice of youth development. In this article, Dr. Fiona Beals (Ara Taiohi Board member) concludes by citing the need to use ritual to mark out and hold the spaces between worlds - to honour the thresholds which we pass over frequently with the young people we work with. I love the idea of walking the edge - I feel it in my bones! Fiona’s words resonated big time as I was welcomed formally into the Ara Taiohi whānau at Tapu Te Ranga marae last week. Ngā mihi nui ki a koutou to all the peeps who came along in support of this kaupapa. I was humbled and inspired by the kōrero that was exchanged, the waiata that were sung, and by the conversations that happened over cups of tea and awesome scones afterwards.
How would I characterise my experiences at Ara Taiohi so far? I’ve been met by great generosity in people: a willingness to talk and share enthusiasm and welcome me into this world with a sense of urgency, a sense of hope, and a sense of shared purpose.
I’ve found people with a deep sense of vocation, deep understanding and analysis of the issues we’re facing, and a deep commitment to young people and to youth development.
People who do work with young people are often thought of as travellers who walk a while in this work before being forced out or encouraged on to more ‘satisfying’ roles by the lure of better pay and more mana. The perception from outside the sector is that there’s something about work with young people that is essentially depleting and lopsided; that burnout is the logical consequence of this kind of work.
What I’m hearing from you all is that burnout happens as a result of a societal lack of regard for value of our work and by a lack of resource. Burnout is not a natural consequence of the work itself. The set of perceptions which says that work in the youth sector is worth less than other work is fundamentally wrong. The current equation where low pay + poor mana = transient youth sector workforce is fundamentally wrong in every way. It’s wrong because the youth sector’s work should be regarded highly and paid well, and also because even with these suboptimal conditions the workforce is not transient. There are people who have been doing this work for a long time, who have mana and endurance and wisdom gained from years of experience.
I’d like to thank everyone I’ve spoken to for their generosity, their openness and their commitment to the kaupapa of youth development. I’m inspired by you all.