Studying the course changed my life
Roo Cameron is a BA (Hons) Youth and Community Work graduate who is now working at SEWREC, The Social Justice Charity for South East Wales as a Support and Advocacy Worker.
My role at SEWREC is within Women’s Advocacy, which means supporting women and young women who are at risk of sexual exploitation, are victims of sexual violence or working in the commercial sex industry (online, street or brothel based). It involves dealing with referrals of young people at risk, from partner organisations such as Social Services, Police and Drug and Alcohol Services.
When working with young people at risk of sexual exploitation, I meet with them a number of times with no specific agenda but just to build a positive relationship. I can then offer support and reassure them that I’m someone they can talk to without fear of judgement. Quite often young people don’t realise they are being exploited, so I try to provide them with an awareness of grooming, exploitation and healthy relationships. The reason being is, it helps them to make an informed decision if ever they find themselves in a difficult situation. I’m also there to support them if things go wrong.
Working with women who are sex workers and drug users, my job is to support them with their specific needs, ensuring they are as safe as they can be. This includes offering practical support such as providing condoms, sanitary products and even clean needles (in liaison with Gwent Drugs and Alcohol Service). We also support the women emotionally as many experience poor mental health, domestic abuse and lack of family relationships. Part of our work at SEWREC is outreach and we try to target specific areas where our client base will be. We mostly receive a positive response to the work we do and this helps to build awareness of the charity and people’s confidence in the service.
Relationship building is a massive part of my role and it takes time to earn peoples trust. By seeing small improvements in people, you know you have made a difference. When people start to open up and you find out about their background, it can sometimes be difficult to deal with. You need to put your emotions to one side and remind yourself that it’s not about you. It’s about the person your helping. The more experience you gain dealing with difficult issues the easier it will be to manage your worries and concerns. The key is to be authentic. If you’re not, clients will be able to see straight through you, creating a barrier to what you are try to achieve.
I never thought I would go to university. Before enrolling onto the Youth and Community Work degree, I worked as a teaching assistant. One of my colleagues was a youth worker and I was inspired by the work she did. Chatting to her I realised that I wanted to be able to do more. With her belief and support I found myself enrolling onto the course. This decision changed my life. The experience I had was amazing. The wide range of placements helped me to get to where I am today. I worked at a school, Women’s Aid, an Inclusion Referral Centre and SEWREC - where I’m still working now.
Establishing a career in this area of youth work, you need to be passionate about what you are trying to achieve, show genuine care for young people, be patient as there are no quick results and show positive regard. You need to see past challenging behaviour as you don’t know what young people have going on in their life. You need to make the most of the support provided by your organisation. It’s the type of role where it’s difficult to leave your thoughts and feelings in work. It’s important to talk to your colleagues and get what’s bothering you off your chest. Dealing with your concerns in the workplace means that you have less on your mind going home. Therefore, utilising supervision is vital to reflect and plan work, so the service provided to individuals is not chaotic or unplanned.