“I see youth work as a privilege rather than a job,” says Marlon. “It doesn’t feel like work most of the time – well, apart from the admin, that is!”

Marlon, 30, is a member of the detached youth working team who deliver YMCA’s Street Talk programme in the heart of local communities, engaging young people in their space, with a view to building up rapport and offering information, advice, guidance and activities.

“My father was a massive advocate for youth and play work in the area of London where I grew up,” says Marlon. “Where we lived, there was always a gang presence and I had friends who were a part of that, but I never got involved. I saw instead the benefits of the work that dad was doing, and I’ve been blessed to follow in his footsteps.”

“Peer pressure is horrendous. Young people get caught up in doing things they know they shouldn’t, but they struggle with the confidence to stand apart from the crowd. I understand that.”

YMCA Family Services and Youth Work Manager, Stuart Kingsley, says:

“After the recent reduction of lockdown protocol, young people have found more freedom to be able to meet in parks and outdoor spaces. Following a few cases of anti-social behaviour in areas such as Priory Park in Reigate, we were approached by Reigate and Banstead Borough Council, Mole Valley District Council and the local police to provide detached youth work services to engage with young people and support them during this unusual period.”

“Our Street Talk project went to six locations across East Surrey each week and we engaged with an average of 100 young people per week.”

“Some might find groups of young people intimidating, but, in my experience, they want to reach out,” says Marlon. “I take it as a challenge to get stuck in, try to break the ice and open up the lines of communication.”

“There is a frustrating lack of funding and opportunities within the youth sector at the moment,” he says. “With many youth centres shut and lots of young people not being able to attend leisure activities, they are getting bored.”

“YMCA East Surrey runs some great youth projects, but the demand is overwhelming and the continuity just isn’t there. Detached youth work needs to work hand in hand with centre-based provision, so that young people can take part in and enjoy organised activities that will give them a nice vibe and show them new ways to achieve.”

“I’m really proud of my job,” says Marlon. “It’s rewarding to be able to offer young people new and exciting ways to grow and develop so that they can respect themselves and influence others.”

“I will always want to work with children and youth people. Youth work can make a massive impact in supporting the adults of the future.”

Read more about our Youth Services