Starting a new job is never easy, as getting to know new people and new responsibilities can be daunting. Starting a new job during Lockdown due to the Coronavirus epidemic, is probably the worst of times to do so.

But that's what our new lead youth worker from Urban Escape has done. 

Lisa started working at Youth Moves a year ago as a sessional worker, but began her new role a couple of weeks before lockdown hit. She was ready for this new challenge, when bang it struck, and didn't know quite what to do. She explained: "It is my dream job, I have wanted to do a job like this for ages. Its all the things I am passionate about. It’s youth work, it’s forest school, its gardening. A lot my family are from Knowle West too, so it’s a bit of a return for me.

And then all of a sudden this happened. It was really hard to take to be honest, really hard."

The role at Urban Escape, based in an area of green space with a Roundhouse that Youth Moves owns, involves lots of outdoor activities, so this all made her role very difficult. She explained: "Bear in mind what a lot of what I do, particularly at this time of year, is lots of forest school type activities. We would be looking to be outside all the time.

Things like whittling, den building, fire lighting, and loads of outdoor games. Then all of a sudden we are trying to think of activities young people can do from their own home whilst remaining safe. Stuff that will capture their interest and give a flavour of what we do at Urban Escape. So this was not easy at all," she added.

As staff and all the youth sessions were moved to online and digital, how did Lisa manage to this and what did she do? She explained: "Well we did quite a lot of microwave cooking, which is not my skill set. A lot of chocolate microwave cooking," she laughed. "We try and keep it as youth led as possible, asking what they have enjoyed and what they want to do. And they seemed to enjoy doing that! And, we do quite a lot for cooking at Urban Escape before liked doing, so this was a natural transition really. And what I have learnt during lockdown is that there are lots of recipes for cooking chocolate in microwaves!" she laughed/r

Still trying to maintain a connection to all things green was a challenge. Some young people have gardens, many don't. One activity that was popular was planting seeds, growing flowers and vegetables. Lisa would deliver all the seeds and growing kits to the houses, leaving at the door and show young people how to do it online from her home. She said: "I would demonstrate how to do it, and then we returned back to it to see how it was growing.

We also did origami, which was hilarious. Its very hard. Also did friendship bracelets, which went down well. And we played a lot of games, dressing up games, a treasure hunt which they loved. It forced us to be quite open minded and creative about the kind of activities we could do – as obviously lots of limitations."

Delivering youth work in this way is very different than in an ordinary session, and something Lisa didn't really factor in until doing it. "So there would like ten of us, and because of the way the technology works, you can only have one person talking at the same time. And because you can see everyone, you are very aware that you aren’t just taking to one person, but to an entire group," she said, "And you are announcing yourself. At times I literally felt like a children's TV presenter!" 

This was also quite a difficult transition for some young people, where the spotlight would be on them far more. Lisa would ask lots of questions, sometimes getting very little back. Although she could fully understand why. She said:"So particularly at that age of 12 or 13, it’s hard to speak in front of an entire crowd of people. That’s not how people would communicate ordinarily.You are literally watching yourself talk, which raises your self consciousness to a level of being shy, at a time when you are learning how to be and act in a group anyway."

Despite this, Lisa was very impressed with the resilience and adaptability of the young people she was working with. In particular the way they were looking out for each other, at a time that was alien and new to us all. She explained: "Despite not always being forthcoming, my youth group were amazing to be honest. Sometimes the things they came out with were exceptional. For instance, one of the questions we would sometimes ask when we are doing a check in would be things like 'what would be your top tips for anyone going through lockdown?'

I was trying to get them to help each other, and the stuff they were coming out with, they were wise beyond their years. Things that even an adult would struggle to give, like ‘make sure you get up at the right time,’ ‘try and get on with some work,’ or ‘make sure you have some nice nature time’ just really wise, and nice things to say. It was lovely to see," she added. 

In recent weeks lots of the youth work staff have been using the Roundhouse, as social distance rules allowed small groups outside, much to Lisa's relief. Finally she can get her teeth into some face to face work at the facility. She stated: "As an individual I am somebody that loves being outside and being around my friends at best of times. And same in my work. So yes it feels amazing to be back out again.

It's been nice having zoom team meetings, but you don’t get all these conversations you usually would. I just really missed working with children and young people, so much that I think I hid it from myself a bit.

So much so that the day before I was going to have the first session back, I had a dream about it. About how much I missed it. I think maybe during lockdown I needed to deny that was the case to get on with things a bit."

Young people are also happy to be back, and pleased to be outside. There are variants to adhere to, with social distancing guidelines still in place, so Lisa has had to be innovative in some of the games young people are playing, whilst ensuring it's safe. "We had a big conversations about how to stay safe, they understood it was vital and have kept it to . Yes sometimes they needed reminding, but have on the whole been great," she explained, "So we are playing outside games like hide and seek, with a seeker who uses his or her eyes rather than touching to find people. We have been finding rocks, and painting them. Been doing lots of things, whilst being always mindful of our space."

Fingers crossed things continue to improve and Lisa can continue to settle into her new job, more and more, which she is loving again. "Yes the more of this the better, for all of us. Playing outside again is a major step. We are all very happy."