The theme for International Child and Youth Care Workers Week 6 to 12 May 2019: “I am, because you are”.

People like to ask why Child and Youth Care workers chose to pursue a career with demands as taxing and a job description that just never seems to end.

Was it a burning desire to change a life for the better?

Was it an attempt at giving back to the world by doing a lifelong kindness?

Or maybe the underlying desire to be a mother/father to plenty had nibbled and gnawed its way into their future.

The reasons are plentiful and varying, but in all honesty, so is the work. So we might ask ourselves, why do they do it? Let’s forget about the cheesy one-liners and heart-warming Facebook statuses and really apply our minds to the reason why these men and women dedicate their lives to shaping the generation of tomorrow.

Any mother will tell you that raising a child is a big blended bowl of walks in the park mixed with the occasional equivalent of wrestling an alligator. There are ups, there are downs and then there is spinning in circles so fast that you forget which one is up and which is down.

Most of the time you can do little else but close your eyes and blindly stumble forward in the hopes that you are doing the right thing. Parenting is no easier than trying to nail jelly to a tree or asking a dog what it would like for lunch.

So the question remains, why do they do it?

Why get up before the crack of dawn and go to bed long after the stars had started dancing in the sky?

Why take an oath to wash dishes until your fingers go wrinkly and your back threatens to give in on you?

Why pledge your undying allegiance to the broom and mop?

Why wrestle thirty alligators when one is already more than you ever thought you could handle? Why wander around in the dark not knowing when you could potentially stub your pinkie toe against the corner of a desk or table leg?

Comprehensible answers seems non-existent but go out into the world and ask these very questions to the first Child and Youth Care worker you come across. Their reply might surprise you.

They’ll tell you that they do it for the smiles, that they do it to see distinctions on report cards, they do it to see a sleeping face after soothing and singing the monsters away.

They do it to see friends find each other, to witness the systematic shaping of a future doctor or lawyer or leader.

They do it to see the broken be mended, the fallen rise from the ashes; they do it to see fire touching the stars.

They do it to wipe tears from small faces, to patch up a skinned knee and rejoice when the training wheels come off and that first bike ride sails across the lawn.

They do it to pick up the pieces of a shattered High School heart and patiently glue it back together so it may beat on to fall in love another day.

They do it to live in the moment, to stand on the sideline and cheer as those they’ve come to care for strive towards heights formerly thought unreachable.

They say it takes a big person to love someone else’s children like their own, could you imagine how big a person it takes to love upwards of thirty children like your own?

All this being said, Child and Youth Care workers do not call it sacrifice; they do not call it public service or a deed of goodwill towards charity. They do not call it a job but a lifestyle. They do not work with the lives of children, they live with them, silently observing, knowingly shaking their heads and handing out hugs when they sense the aftermath of a bad day at school.

So cheer for them, admire them and believe in them.

 by Marno Reyneke, Third year psychology student.

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