I chose to become a youth worker because of the huge difference Christian youth workers made to me as a teenager struggling with depression, eating issues and self-harm.  It was because of their continued love, acceptance and support that I was able to emerge from those difficult years and begin to think about having a life and a future.
After graduating from MCYM in 2004, I worked in various settings from schools to churches to local authority clubs.  The theme I saw everywhere was a rise in the numbers of young people experiencing mental health issues and finding it very hard to get the right help at the right time, meaning that things often reached crisis point.  I found myself, on a number of occasions sitting in A&E with one of my young people and accompanying them through admissions for overdoses or just feeling so low they weren’t safe at home.
I realised that the role I played as a youth worker was unique because I could be their trusted friend, their advocate, shoulder to cry on, and source of information.  I could do this in a way that parents struggled to be because of their emotional attachment and bewilderment at the situation they found themselves and their child in.  I could do this in a way that other professionals struggled to be because of time constraints and their position as authority figures.  I wondered how many young people went through my local hospital without someone who could fulfil this role, and whether I could make a way for youth workers to support any young person who wanted their help.  This was the seed for Emerge.
Emerge is a Christian charity founded in 2016 which trains volunteers from local churches and enables them to go and support young people who are in hospital because of self-harm, overdose or suicide attempt.  We continue to offer support for a few weeks to help them engage with CAMHS or other treatment as so many young people find this a challenge.  Through developing a relationship with the Royal Surrey in Guildford and putting all the governance and policies in place, we now offer a voice of hope. We give young people a picture of a bowl that has been broken and, instead of being discarded, is mended with seams of gold.  It’s an ancient Japanese art called Kintsugi and it’s our metaphor for what we do.  We want young people – all people to know that although we have been broken, we are not worthless.  In fact, it’s in our brokenness that our beauty and value shine the brightest.

Joy Wright,
Founder &Director of Emerge  Advocacy

My journey to places I could never have imagined!

If you’d asked me when I started my CYM degree in 2005 whether or not I’d find myself working for Scripture Union producing exciting new resources and content in 12 years time – I’d have said ‘No way’! But here I am – in a role that fits me to a ‘T’.
In everything I’ve done since I graduated in 2008, I’ve found a use for the things CYM taught me. In particular, I’ve become so used to theologically reflecting on everything that happens, and on everything I see – it seems to happen automatically. This is particularly amusing if you’re someone who knew me as an undergraduate, since on so many occasions I just hated being told to ‘theologically reflect’ – I didn’t appreciate the value in a process that is now a staple of my daily living.
Most recently perhaps, as part of my role with Scripture Union, I’ve had the privilege of writing a brand new version of Luke’s gospel – Diary of a Disciple: Luke’s Story. Diary is aimed at children aged 8-11, and is written in a quirky, contemporary, doodle style, designed to help children discover Luke’s story for themselves.
In writing Diary I’ve drawn heavily upon the foundation of Biblical Theology that CYM provided, I’ve used my CYM-given-knowledge in child faith development, I’ve considered the ways people learn differently and tried to write for as many learning styles as I can, and I’ve definitely theologically reflected as part of the writing process itself – but also on the experience of seeing the Bible in a whole new light.
When I started my undergraduate degree course I was very much a ‘youth worker’ who would only ever work with young people.  I couldn’t imagine working with those under 11 – I mean, children’s workers are a totally different breed – right!?
But the grounding I was given in both children’s and youth ministry has set me up well – shaping and honing my practice as a youth worker, enabling me to support and mentor new CYM students as a professional practice tutor, and now underpinning my work with both children and young people in my role as Content Innovator for Scripture Union.
It doesn’t really seem like almost a decade has passed since I left CYM, because I’ve never really said ‘goodbye’. I’ve enjoyed some great CPD training over the years, and have held on to some ever deepening friendships.
Now when I look back over my journey of learning, I can honestly say I’ve valued every moment – and I wouldn’t change it for the world!
If you’d like to find out more about Scripture Union, or about Diary of a Disciple: Luke’s Story visit www.diaryofadisciple.org.uk

Gemma Willis