Location: Cape Town, South Africa
I started in 1994 working for an outdoor programme for marginalized children in rural communities. From there I spent some time working in a residential care facility, whilst studying a Diploma in Child and Youth Care. A moment of dream into reality was launching a wilderness programme for at-risk youth through Educo Africa (www.educoafrica.org.za): Several very happy years wandering the mountains of South Africa. On one mountain I met my wife. No, she wasnít a student. Surprisingly enough this resulted in a child, and the need to refigure our life. Thus to the running of a child and youth care centre in Hout Bay, a small fishing village within Cape Town. Almost eight years later I sat on a beach and decided enough of that. This decision lead to my joining a large and wonderfully diverse organization named MaAfrika Tikkun, running community-based interventions for children in a family-centred model.
How I came to be in this field
Since three I wanted to be a game ranger - actually did manage to become one, but I just couldnít get used to the camel cigarettes. The moment of transition was very specific. Sitting on a sand dune on the Southernmost tip of Africa watching a whole bunch of children running wild. I turned to my colleague and noted that the children had a greater need to talk about alcoholic fathers than learn about the migratory patterns of the lesser spotted roughly feathered white bird. This led to the meeting with a certain Brian Gannon, who in turn‚Ä¶ well anyway that is how I came to be in the field
My favourite saying (this week)
'Donít be a shithead'. My 5-year-old son expressing his anger when witnessing me smacking his dog for digging up my garden.
A few thoughts about child and youth care
There is art in our work
For me our key brilliance lies in the fact that we work in the world of the child
I love the writing in child and youth care
South African child care is folding in on itself, it is becoming a lesser thing, this is very sad. Of course this is only my opinion
Last thing I read, watched, heard,
which I would recommend to others
Watched a DVD with Jacqueline the other night, When last did I see my father. Made me cry - always useful. Oh and then Jack Kornfieldís latest book The Wise Heart*
Favourite child and youth care
Watching from a distance my colleague and friend Anthea Jansen, move from working on the floor to running one of the most successful residential programmes in South Africa. (Again, my opinion)
A few thoughts for those starting out
Stay Ė and make sure you learn
Work to become aware of your own stuff. The best way for me was to have a mentor. I also did the Jungian stuff for a couple of years - very useful
Sense of humour, not at the expense of the kids, maybe at life
Try different stuff, donít always conform to what the experts say
Donít stay on the floor too long, take a break or move on. For myself I believe too many years in direct residential care could result in a general unwinding of the proverbial grey matter
A recommended CYC reading link
A favourite writing
Influences on my work
Quite a request. I want to say almost every moment. People, so many people, my family; Jacqueline, Emma and James. The wounds my father gave me. The incredible gift of friendship and mentorship from Jeannie Karth. Working for Educo Africa, Buddhism, Tai Chi. Oh, and the many, many children and young people I have worked with.
Two things. One is the reward when a young person with whom you worked with years back contacts you. I had two of those this week, one an sms from a young man announcing that he had passed his driverís license; and two through Skype, a woman that I had taken on a wilderness programme almost 16 years ago. (Game Ranger days).
Second is this: I now work mainly in organizational leadership; every single lesson I ever learnt in child and youth care applies in the realm of leading and managing an organization.
* The Wise Heart:A Guide to the Universal Teachings of Buddhist Psychology by Jack Kornfield is in our bookstore:
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