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Supporting international cultural exchanges wins youth worker a Commonwealth award
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Supporting international cultural exchanges wins youth worker a Commonwealth award

Peter Fleet receives award at the UK’s Youth Worker Awards during Youth Work Week.

A youth worker who promotes international youth exchanges that support some young people to travel abroad for the first time in their lives received the Commonwealth Youth Worker Award on Thursday, 8 November at the UK’s Youth Worker Awards.

Director of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award London region, Peter Fleet, was presented the award by Commonwealth Deputy Secretary-General Mmasekgoa Masire-Mwamba at the Commonwealth Secretariat’s headquarters in London during Youth Work Week 2012 (5-11 November).

Through fundraising and the support of partners including the Commonwealth Youth Exchange Council and the British Council, Mr Fleet has facilitated international cultural exchanges for young people.

He said at the awards: “If you take young people abroad for just one week, taking them completely out of their culture and community and into a totally different situation, at the end of that week you can actually see the change in the way those young people are starting to think about themselves and their lives and about the world around them. That’s what I’m passionate about – making those opportunities available.”

The Youth Worker Award was introduced by the UK’s National Youth Agency (NYA) as part of its Youth Work Week – an annual event highlighting the role of youth workers in supporting young people and communities.

This year, for the first time, the NYA has partnered with the Commonwealth Secretariat to make the week a truly international event, running across the 54 member countries of the Commonwealth.

Youth Work Week 2012 also adopted this year’s Commonwealth theme, ‘Connecting Cultures‘, with young people and youth workers from the Commonwealth invited to showcase the role youth work plays in bringing people from diverse backgrounds together.

Mrs Masire-Mwamba said at the awards: “Now is the time to invest in the development of youth workers who will be able to contribute at all levels – in the village and in the national government – setting the policies and strategies, and delivering the programmes, that will make a difference for young people. So I call on governments, stakeholders, development partners, universities and colleges. The socio-economic challenges may be great but let us agree that you need youth workers who are trained and talented to work and engage with our youth.”

Kevin Mullins, a youth worker from Lea Manor Youth Centre in Luton, UK, received the UK’s Youth Worker of the Year Award at the event. Mr Mullins has launched initiatives such as the Street Robbery Awareness Project, which involved young victims and perpetrators of robberies working together, and a project for 11-25 year-olds with a wide range of disabilities.

Clare Bartlett, a youth officer from Bromford and Activities Officer Donna Harding from Middlesbrough were also recognised at the awards for their dedication to improving the lives of young people and maintaining quality youth services in their area.

Don Stewart, chair of the NYA, said: “If you invest on a continuous basis with youth workers it saves money because the more you engage young people in the life of the country the bigger returns you’ll get.”

As part of Youth Work Week, the Commonwealth’s regional youth centres also held a range of activities focused on celebrating and expanding the youth work profession.

The Commonwealth Youth Programme (CYP) AfricaCentre and the University of South Africa announced on Thursday the first international conference on ‘Education and Training of Youth Workers – Towards Professionalising Youth Work’ to be held next year from 18 to 20 March 2013.

The announcement came during a panel discussion in Pretoria, South Africa, on the journey towards recognising youth work as a profession. 

The March conference – hosted by the South African Government and the Commonwealth Secretariat’s Youth Affairs Division – is expected to bring together more than 300 delegates to reflect on the education and training of youth workers, and youth work as a skilled and recognised profession.

The CYP Pacific Centre hosted a workshop in Honiara, Solomon Islands, from 7 to 8 November focusing on the professionalisation of youth work and launched the first Solomon Islands Youth Worker Association.

Around 40 youth workers from key youth organisations, government departments, local schools, and non-governmental organisations in Solomon Islands attended the training, which is part of CYP’s Youth Work Education and Training programme.

The CYP Asia Centre will also be launching two new publications on the concepts and strategies of professionalising youth work, and a guide to establishing a professional youth worker association.

In September this year the CYP Caribbean Centre launched a set of competency standards for youth development work in the region.

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