Anne Lamminen and Laura Plosila work as youth advisors at the Sumppu youth centre in Isolahti.
At Sumppu, young people play pool, board games, or PlayStation, and hang out with friends and the youth advisors. Sometimes they cook together.
– All activities arise from the ideas and wishes expressed by the young people themselves, tells Laura.
The work of a youth advisor is evening and weekend oriented. However, the work gives more than it takes.
– The best part is the encounters with these incredibly smart and fun young people. It’s when you make a real connection; when you laugh together and cry together,” Anne describes.
– The young people have a lot on their minds and a lot on their hearts. The skill of youth advisors is to connect with young people and build a long-term relationship based on trust.
Talking about relationships, studies, and family
Young people want to talk to an adult about issues such as relationships, studies, and family.
– We can also talk openly about substance abuse: what are the young person’s own limits, or whether it is necessary to go along with the crowd to use drugs. Sex and sexuality are also on young people’s minds,” lists Anne.
Laura describes youth advisors as safe adults for young people; people who they can turn to even if they have messed up a bit.
– We have a duty of professional secrecy. If a young person has a problem that would require outside help, we can, with their permission, take the matter to an outreach youth worker or mental health services, for example.
Important basic youth work is carried out in municipalities with relatively few resources, but over a wide area.
– This is low-cost and invaluable preventive work. When remedial measures are needed, it becomes expensive, the youth advisors explain.
Snapchat is an important tool
Sumppu’s youth advisors use the Snapchat app on their work phones to keep in touch with young people.
– We both have personal accounts there, which we use during working hours. They tend to ask things like whether the youth centre is open now, could I make some coffee if they come over, or then they just let us know that they’d want to talk. It’s easy for young people to get in touch by using an online platform,” says Anne.
Young people from sixth graders up to the age of 18 come to Sumppu. The sixth graders going to Isolahti school have their own meeting time once a week, but otherwise Sumppu is open for 13–18-year-olds on Mondays and from Thursday to Saturday.
– Many young people visit us from their sixth-grader days and up to adulthood, so this becomes an important community,” the youth workers explain.
Zero tolerance for substance abuse
All youth centres in Vaasa have a zero-tolerance policy on alcohol, drugs, and tobacco products.
– We are obliged to do so by the Youth Act, which governs all our work. At the moment, the biggest problems are snuff and especially e-cigarette. Vaping, as they call using an e-cigarette, is now very common among young people,” says Laura.
Youth advisors also talk to young people about vaping and explain, in a well-founded way, why vaping is not for minors and why it is not harmless.
The youth advisors see the message from young people clearly: they need safe adults.
– Young people like to be asked what’s going on. All young people need adults, even if they retreat to their own room, and it is important to give young people positive attention.
Rainbow youth work and training on equality
Sumppu’s youth advisors are involved in organising the rainbow youth group activities that started last autumn in the City of Vaasa’s youth services.
The activities are non-discriminatory and follow the guidelines for a safe and equal space. There is no need to define yourself in any way to join.
– Equality and equity are important to us. This year, most of the staff in the youth services have received training on how to meet rainbow youth as well as on sexuality and gender diversity,” the youth advisors say.