September 1st, 2017

The Game of Life

One of the reasons I like to think I’m so passionate and excited about youth work is because as a teenager, the relationships I valued the most were the ones that helped me navigate those awkward years of finding out who I was, where I wanted to end up, and who would celebrate my successes as well as working through my challenges with me. These people were the ones who would listen to me, and take what I had to say seriously – there was no “oh, you’re still so young – don’t worry about it” or “you’re only 14, what does it matter?” These people had good intentions for me and had my best interests at heart – two qualities I’m hoping to continue developing and incorporating into my own youth work practice today.


At Canaan Project, we really value the role that mentoring can play as part of the broader picture of youth work. Recently, I met up with a young woman and we visited a board game café and played a super intense game of Monopoly (I was sorely beaten unfortunately!) and caught up as we went along. Mentoring sessions work a little bit like a jigsaw; the more time you invest in someone, the better a space can be created where the pieces can fit together.


People ask me sometimes what the best bit of the job is, and I’d definitely have to say mentoring. I love that I have the opportunity to model what was so valuable to me when I was a young person – to listen, to come alongside, and to work through the Game of Life together. Yet it’s also important for workers to recognize that mentoring is a two-sided conversation – and to realize that we don’t always have the answers, but we can create and facilitate the space where the answers can begin to materialize. Mentoring is brilliant because young people can share their own wisdom with us as workers; their perspective on the way the Game of Life works is sometimes much more mature than their years and challenges me to refresh my own perspective on things.


Playing a game of Monopoly and eating some sweets might sound like an easy day at the office, but it’s so much more than that. It’s the space where this young woman could process, be valued and be given her time in the limelight. It’s a conversation where her voice matters and her opinion counts. It’s a time where she can work out her next move in the Game of Life, and most importantly, be cheered on from the sidelines by those who see her as the ultimate player.