Cathy bows out of youth work
ONE of the north’s most familiar faces – youth worker Cathy Christian – has retired after 15 years of working on the Ramsey Young People’s Project, amid glowing praise from her employers and an MBE medal for the mantelpiece.
Cathy, employed be the Department of Education and Children, has worked with the project since its inception, and was on the Queen’s 2012 New Year’s Honours list, for services to youth.
The Ramsey project started as Beryl’s Bus before moving to its current location at the old Tram Museum at the Tram Station. Known as The Shed, it is a project for adolescents and has been described as a ‘street corner with a roof’, that often deals with young people who find it difficult fitting in to conventional youth provision, although the club has a wide cross section of youths attending.
Youth officer Gráinne Burns said Cathy will be missed, and in terms of finding a replacement will be a tough act to follow.
Gráinne said: ‘Cathy will be really hard to replace. She’s not working on her own in Ramsey by any means, but she has been the lynchpin.
‘When the project was set up we knew we needed a particular type of youth worker. We basically headhunted Cathy, and she just flourished!’
Gráinne added: ‘She took it by the scruff of the neck. She cares about the kids; whatever they’re going through she really wants to help them come through it. The MBE was a fantastic thank you to her, as she’s really made a difference to people’s lives.’
Even after a brief Wednesday evening visit to The Shed during Cathy’s final week, the mutual respect between her and the kids is immediately apparent.
Many of them affectionately call her ‘lamb’, a tongue in cheek use of Cathy’s own catchphrase.
‘I do Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, which gives continuity with the kids. They all have different attitudes, and different issues. It can be challenging, but it keeps it interesting,’ said Cathy, who first started youth work 22 years ago at a social club in Jurby.
Gráinne agreed, that even in the age of X-Boxes and PlayStations, Cathy manages to get through to young people at the club.
‘She has a good relationship, even when she’s shouting, the kids take it from her because she has built up that trust, said Gráinne. ‘And if she’s disappointed in someone, they really take it to heart, enough to do something about it.’
Cathy was reluctant to sing her own praises, but was happy to be the subject of an article as it may help in the recruitment of a replacement. In the meantime, she will return from retirement for six weeks in the summer to help bridge the gap as her old post is advertised.
‘It’s very rewarding, I’m one of the lucky people in life who can say that, it’s just good fun. You definitely have to have a good sense of humour!’ she said.
‘Being a youth worker means you seal with all sorts of things; it’s not a structured club, it’s drop in centre.’
As society changes with each generation, has Cathy noticed a difference in the youth of today from her beginnings?
‘Not really, the job hasn’t changed much over the years, it’s the issues that change,’ she said. ‘At the moment it’s unemployment. But it has been like this before; when I left school it was very hard to get a job, I went knocking door to door!’
Cathy still gets a lot of enjoyment out of the work she does, but nevertheless felt the time was right to step down.
‘It’s time to finish. The first kids that came to the club in Ramsey are approaching 30 now, they have kids of their own! It’s been 22 years of working in the evenings, I want to spend more time with my husband, and get into things like growing my own food. I don’t want to end up being a grumpy old youth worker. You can’t get away with being grumpy with an MBE!’
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Tuesday 21 May 2013
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