Reaching out to young people with a van

  • Youth Work
  • Work
11.10.2021 10.05Updated: 7.4.2022 9.33
Jukka Kilpelä behind the wheel of the mobile youth work van.
Jukka Kilpelä behind the wheel of the mobile youth work van.Photo: Roope Permanto, Otavamedia

The idea of mobile youth work is to go where the young people are. Youth worker Anniina Vilkman says that the best thing about her job is its relevance.

The City of Espoo granted the Taitaja award for preventative substance abuse work to mobile youth work, which has been going around Espoo during the COVID-19 pandemic to reach out to young people while youth centres have remained closed.

“Essentially, we need to go where the young people are. We were pleasantly surprised to receive the award. It is always good to hear that other people think you are doing something right, and this type of youth work is really needed,” says Anniina Vilkman, a youth worker employed in mobile youth work.

“Substance abuse does occur in Espoo, too, but I do not consider it a major problem here,” she says.

The mobile youth work employees head to the field in pairs. The team has at their disposal a van they have fondly dubbed Patrik, which makes it easy for them to go exactly where they are needed at any given time.

“In normal circumstances, we also provide various activities at village schools, but at the moment, we are only working from the van because of COVID-19.

Activities and safe adults

In practice, the mobile youth work van usually visits places where young people have no access to services.

“We provide them with alternative activities. We roll out the van’s awning and pull out the grill and yard games. Sometimes young people want to listen to music, often they just want to have a chat and spend time with safe adults,” Anniina says.

Another goal of mobile youth work is to give young people who do not like to spend time at youth centres the opportunity to participate in youth work activities. According to Anniina, most young people have a positive attitude towards youth workers. Many of them look forward to Patrik the van arriving with its familiar adults.

“At times, we have even been a bit surprised at how warmly we have been received. Very rarely do we get the feeling that we are not welcome.

Relevance of the work is rewarding

Anniina has been working as a youth worker for seven years. She has been engaged in mobile youth work since spring 2019.

“I ended up doing this job because I enjoy change. Establishing contact with young people is great but, on the other hand, it is also exciting not to have a permanent customer base. I can also draw on my own experiences in my work. I remember getting a lot of help from youth workers when I was a teenager, so I know from experience just how important this job is. Even difficult encounters can be rewarding,” Anniina says.

Mobile youth work employees work in two shifts. Day shifts are spent planning activities and during evening shifts, the focus is on encountering young people.

“For the most part, my work is laid-back and rewarding. It can also be consuming at times, but my colleagues and supervisors are an important source of support. Thanks to them, I can keep going even on the toughest days.

Contact information for mobile youth work employees:

Jukka Kilpelä +358 40 5502702
Triin Peltoniemi +358 40 6368857
Anastasia Kinnunen +358 40 6369216
Lemmy Koivunen +358 40 6368859

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(This article was originally published in the City of Espoo staff magazine Espressi 3/2021. Text by Pi Mäkilä and photos by Roope Permanto.)

Lemmy Koivunen making hot dogs.Photo: Roope Permanto, Otavamedia
  • Work for Espoo