Weekly Update from Refugee Youth Service: Bringing Structure to Young People’s Lives

It has been a relatively peaceful week at Baloo’s youth centre, which has enabled us to focus on bringing structure into the lives of our young people.

As a team of volunteers we understand it is essential that strong routine is encouraged within our programs, not only in order to provide a consistent service but to teach and reinforce valuable life skills and lessons such as those of punctuality, hard work and reward. This is especially necessary in a place where young people are commonly unaccompanied, without good role models, and free to do as they please. Enforcing this consistency and structure has required better communication with our young people about planned activities, and as a prerequisite to this better planning of behalf of the volunteer team with regards to the week’s program. As a result of this improved communication, and with a little help from the continued beautiful weather, we have put on some thoroughly enjoyable activities, including those which are both sport and education based.

As part of our attempt to teach and reinforce valuable life lessons we are finding ways to give greater responsibility to our young people. One project we have begun is a vegetable patch just next to the youth centre, which will of course require maintenance if it is to produce anything. Each day we ask the boys to water the patch and as it develops we will ask them to do the many other tasks required for a successful crop.

Two of the boys in particular this week took on some greater responsibility when they agreed to be cricket captains for a match that was held on Wednesday on no-man’s-land. Both were tasked with finding teams of 11 players for the match, which was a great success. One team captain opened the game by bowling out 3 from 3 but then went onto lose by a margin of just 12 runs.

Another thoroughly enjoyed activity this week was our first volleyball match which took place directly outside of the youth centre. Volleyball is a particularly popular sport within the camp, second only to football. At the request of the boys the first match to be played consisted of young people vs. volunteers. You can probably guess who won (it wasn’t the volunteers!)

As part of improving the structure of our weekly programme we have changed the way we encourage our young people to attend school. As always school takes place at Jungle Books (located next to the youth centre), but we have decided to increase the frequency of these sessions and reduce the length of time in which they take place. School now takes place for an hour each day after lunch between 2pm and 3pm, during which the youth centre closes. Persuading the boys to go can be an arduous task but we feel that this structure is already having a positive effect on attendance and will enable us to build momentum within the school programme. School activities continue to be a mix of maths, English and experimental science.

The final piece of exciting news to share is the addition of Aziz to the youth centre team. Aziz has been living in the camp for several months and is currently in the process of claiming asylum in France. He speaks both Pashto and Arabic, and the boys love him; making him invaluable to the team. We are delighted to have him on board. Below is not 1 but 2 great pictures of Aziz learning the most valuable lesson of all: you will never win when you challenge the boys to a game of football!