Suzy Sorby and Abbie Clifford are both Youth and Community Work graduates who are now working at Bron Afon Community Housing as Young People and Family Support Officers.
Speaking about their roles, Abbie explained “Our job comprises of a dual role. It focuses on preventative projects as well as family support. Our preventative work includes pre-employability projects and the Own Two Feet project (a pre-tenancy program preparing young people with household skills needed to sustain tenancies). It also includes the Go Girls project which promotes safer relationships, woman’s equality and positive mental health.” Suzy added, “Part of our family support work is based at Ty Cyfle; which is new starter accommodation in Bron Afon specifically for young people aged 16 to 24. Here we support the families and provide early intervention when required.”
I grew up in Bron Avon so many of the people I support I already have connections with, so I’ve had to work extra hard to get people to see me as a staff member rather than a friend. It’s been a challenge being so close to the community already, but it’s so rewarding to be able to offer professional advice and support, which can really make a difference.” said Suzy.
“The BA (Hons) Youth and Community Work has been amazing.” adds Suzy. “I’ve loved all stages of the course. You definitely notice the difference when progressing to the second and then final year. Balancing my time between university, work experience, volunteering work and paid work was a challenge but after a while it becomes a routine. There is a different style of learning to the other courses offered at the University as youth work requires a hands-on approach. The lecturer’s actively practice youth work and so they can relate to the experiences you have on placement at a higher level.”
Abbie adds “I had the opportunity to put the theory covered into practice which is definitely the best way to learn. The various placements you undertake as you progress through the course provides you with numerous challenges. The experiences you build up, prepare you for these and also the work you will undertake following graduation. They also make for interesting discussion during classroom sessions where you reflect on your work placement, in a safe environment.”
“My biggest achievement through youth and community work, has been helping refurbish Ty Cyfle.” said Suzy. “The old community centre building was derelict and scheduled to be demolished. I was part of the first co-operative for young people in Wales (Bron Afon Community Housing Youth Forum) who convinced the council to put the demolition money aside, to use towards repurposing the building to a block of eight new starter homes for young people. The occupants are selected from those who are or are planning to enter education, employment, training or volunteering. The project was a huge success and a stepping stone in addressing some of the misconceptions of homelessness.”
Describing what it takes to be a youth worker Abbie said: “Dedication, passion, approachability, patience, to be non-judgemental and able to reflect on your own experiences. Suzy and I both take different approaches to our work, but the same values are always there.” Suzy elaborated, “Due to the nature of our work, we are never going to be experts but we are constantly sharing experiences and learning from one another. You can’t fix every problem on your own but by working as a team, there’s a lot more you can achieve.”