By Laura Ann Phillips
“Man shot, known to police.”
“Businessman shoots bandit.”
After a while, we could write the headlines for the next day’s papers. Same story, it seems.
But, we seldom hear the perspective of youth care workers, who continue to work invisibly with high-risk adolescents, day after day, knowing that not everyone will be a success story.
That some might well feature in such headlines.
“It’s hard because you have to think of the greater good, you have to think of society – how that person’s behaviour could affect society,” mused Earl Joseph, a youth care worker at Marian House, a Living Water Community residential development programme for high-risk adolescent males.
“And, you have to ask yourself, ‘Did I do enough to prevent something from happening?’ And, if you didn’t, then what else could you do?”
Hence the importance of keeping clear about why you do what you do.
“We do it because of the individual children who have had a raw deal in life already,” declared Sr Roberta O’Flaherty, a Holy Faith Sister and Executive Director of the CREDO Foundation for Justice.
“We do it for their good and for the good of society. Because we want to believe that our work makes an impact on violence and homelessness in the country.”
The Congregation of the Holy Faith operates CREDO Development Centre and CREDO/Sophia House for high-risk adolescent boys and girls, respectively.
“From my perspective, you have an opportunity to change someone’s life,” mused Dale Bartholomew, administrator of the Centres, “and not only change, but to try to steer them into the positive.
“It’s frustrating, yes,” she admitted, “(but), you’re trying to make an impact.”
All three Centres featured focus on education and on-the-job training for their residents, group and individual counselling, mentorship programmes, and gradual re-integration into their families, where possible.
Beyond programmes and projects, some personal investment is also needed, but in a way that is healthy for residents, healthy for workers.
“When I go to work, I take on the job fully, said Joseph, who has been at Marian House for 12 years. “When I leave work, I let go some of work.
“My cellphone is always there, in case something happens but, mentally, I disconnect … so that I may not carry the burden that may impact me and family.”
It’s also important to engage in self-care once away from the work environment, he advised, any holistic activity that relaxes you in body, mind and spirit.
And, to remain clear about the true nature of the work.
“Before I was in CREDO I worked in Servol for 13 years,” mused Sr Roberta. “And, it was about giving people an opportunity to foster their development, to be as good as they can, and to contribute as much as they can to society. Other than becoming reliant on the government for the rest of their lives.
“And I have to link it with Jesus: ‘I came so that you may have life, and have it to the full’.” (Jn 10:10)
(In Part Two of “THE SILENT SAVIOURS”, we’ll explore some of the original pain of high-risk youth, common contributors to delinquency and what some Catholic youth care programmes in Trinidad are doing to help them heal.)