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Outreach youth information

Hyvä käytäntö on julkaistu alunperin ERYICAn julkaisussa SHEryica - Good Practice in Youth Information (2017).

Outreach youth information and counselling work in rural areas

The ‘Local service for youth information and counselling work in rural areas of Kuopio’ is a two-year project being carried out with the help of one youth information worker (YI worker) in five villages in the region of Kuopio. The target group is 10-18 year olds living in these rural areas, and the aim is to be part of their everyday school and youth centre activities. The area is vast, and thus requires a lot of mobility. The YI worker has realised how much of an obstacle distance can be for a young person, and travel-related problems are common in Finland amongst youngsters.

Our YI worker has been working with youth workers and school staff, covering various topics. However often it is enough just to listen to the students, and it is incredible how quickly young people open up and talk about personal matters. No work day has been the same, and our colleague has seen how valued the different tools, guidance and counselling offered to young people are.

The actions that have been carried out in this project so far include the following:

  • creating a model for youth information services in the rural area of Kuopio;
  • info packages of the most common youth information topics;
  • peer-to-peer information sessions and active peer-to-peer groups;
  • groups of young people with a shared purpose who meet online and face-to-face;
  • sharing professional knowledge between operators (school and youth work);
  • improving online counselling work; and
  • using social media as an active tool to carry out youth information and counselling work.

A concrete example of good cooperation is the launching of a girls’ activity group, as it is boys who visit youth centres most often. The YI worker brings along visitors, such as a sex therapist, or a midwife. The youth centre also stays open during break times, and invites people such as a student advisor, curator, nurse, social worker and YI worker. The YI worker has also been involved in developing the area’s international activities. For example, EVS volunteers have travelled around to speak English and German during lessons, in school corridors and at youth centres. In addition, the project combines the objectives of peer information activities and international youth exchange in the Medialab project. Medialab’s young publicists produce diverse media content, making young peoples’ voices heard in matters concerning them in their own areas.

The YI worker also works online, by operating as a network administrator. The network is balanced by combining handicrafts with youth information purposes, for example, by making Guatemalan worry dolls. The small dolls are intended to act as a by-product when discussing the worries and concerns of children and young people. The worry is told to these dolls in the evening, then it is placed under a pillow, and during the night, the doll worries on behalf of the young person. Alongside activities, there have been discussions about the divorce of parents, bullying, family disputes and the pain of leaving when moving abroad.

Achievements:

The project has impacted more than 4,000 young peoples’ lives so far. This demonstrates that youth information work is needed and the topics that are covered by the service affect many young people. The outreach YI worker has also created workshops that will be used in schools and in local youth houses when the project has ended. The topics covered are the following: bullying, international opportunities, summer work and gaming, amongst many others. Our YI worker has offered training sessions and meetings for those who work in rural areas to share ideas for working together. This has also been an opportunity to share thoughts in a professional way. Since the beginning of the project, our YI worker has used social media as a tool to interact with young people, using most frequently the applications WhatsApp, Instagram and Snapchat. These apps are very diverse, and are a great means to interact with our YI worker and receive help with questions and problems.